March 6 (Reuters) – US solar panel imports are finally picking up after months of stalemate due to the implementation of a new law banning goods made with forced labour, according to two Chinese solar companies.
A White House official confirmed the thaw in shipments at an energy conference on Monday, attributing it to clearer rules around compliance with the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act (UFLPA).
The gain is a relief to major Chinese suppliers, including Trina Solar (688599.SS) and Jinko Solar (JKS.N), who are finally getting products into the lucrative US market after a long delay.
The labor protection law bans imports of products made in China’s Xinjiang region, where Chinese authorities have reportedly set up labor camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim groups. China denies all abuses.
The movement of panels stuck at the border or waiting to be shipped from abroad should help ease delays in the development of solar energy projects in the US following implementation of the law, which took effect in June last year .
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The project construction freeze posed a risk to the Biden administration’s clean energy and climate change goals, the industry said.
“There is clearer guidance and we see more shipments coming,” John Podesta, a senior adviser to President Joe Biden on clean energy, told reporters on Monday on the sidelines of the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston. provide details of the amount of panels that came through customs.
Trina Solar Co Ltd (688599.SS) told Reuters that more than 900 megawatts of its solar panels have been cleared by US Customs in the past four months, with less than 1% of those products being held for investigation. That is about enough capacity to power more than 150,000 households.
“Trina’s data systems and supply chain management enable us to provide detailed traceability documentation, if requested by U.S. Customs,” a Trina US spokeswoman, Melissa Cavanagh, said in an email. “As a result, delays in ports have been significantly reduced.”
The UFLPA essentially assumes that all goods from Xinjiang are made with forced labor and requires manufacturers to show purchasing documentation of imported equipment back to raw material to prove otherwise before imports can be cleared.
Trina rival Jinko Solar Holding Co Ltd (JKS.N) has also released shipments from detention, a source close to the company said.
By October, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized more than 1,000 shipments of solar equipment under UFLPA, the agency said in response to a request for public records. None had been released.
The products are mainly made by Trina, Jinko and Longi Green Energy Technology Co Ltd (601012.SS), according to industry sources. Those companies typically account for a third of US panel shipments.
Longi did not respond to requests for comment.
In response to another public records request last month, U.S. Customs said it had released 374, or more than a quarter of the 1,433 electronics shipments it had detained under UFLPA. It wouldn’t specify how many of those were solar products.
Polysilicon, the raw material of the solar industry, is designated by law as a high-priority sector.
Reporting by Richard Valdmanis in Houston and Nichola Groom in Los Angeles Edited by David Gregorio, Matthew Lewis and Sonali Paul
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.
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