More Than 1,000 Chinese Solar Components Seized at U.S. Ports

More than 1,000 shipments of solar energy equipments from China have been held up at the U.S. ports since June, when a new law has been launched banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region over concerns of slave labor. The number of seizures show how a policy intended to pressure Beijing on its Uyghur detention camps in Xinjiang is risking Biden administration’s efforts to meet emission targets to fight climate change. A total of 1,053 shipments of solar energy components were seized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency between June 21, when the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act came into force, and Oct. 25.

The seized products include panels and polysilicon cells likely amounting to up to 1 GW of capacity and primarily made by three Chinese manufacturers: Longi Green Energy Technology, Trina Solar and JinkoSolar. These three companies combined typically account for a third of U.S. panel supplies. They have stopped new shipments, worried that those cargoes could also be detained.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang. Beijing initially denied the existence of any detention camps, but then later admitted it had set up “vocational training centers” necessary to curb what it said was terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism in Xinjiang.

JinkoSolar said it is working with the Customs and Border Protection on documentation proving its supplies are not linked with forced labor.

The seizures put in jeopardy Biden administration’s efforts to decarbonize U.S. economy and implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which encourages renewable energy technologies to fight climate change.

Solar installations in the United States slowed by 23% in the third quarter, and nearly 23 GW of solar projects are delayed, largely due to an inability to obtain panels.

The American Clean Power Association (ACP) urged the Biden administration to streamline the vetting process for imports.

“After more than four months of solar panels being reviewed under UFLPA, none have been rejected and instead they remain stuck in limbo with no end in sight,” ACP said in a statement.

The UFLPA requires producers to show sourcing documentation of imported equipment back to the raw material to prove goods from Xinjiang are not made with forced labor before imports can be cleared.

Customs and Border Protection has previously said that it had detained about 1,700 shipments worth $516.3 million under UFLPA through September but has never before detailed how many of those shipments contained solar equipment.

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