Fears over China’s Muslim forced labour loom over EU solar power

By Paul Homewood

 

h/t Robin Guenier

 

 I have covered this issue recently, but now it appears the EU is finally waking up as well as the US:

 

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Nearly every solar power panel sold in the European Union has its origins in China’s oppressed Xinjiang region.

The solar industry and Brussels lawmakers argue Europe’s renewable energy push should not come at a human cost amid long-standing international concern over reports China has detained 1 million people with Muslim backgrounds in camps in Xinjiang and is putting them to work.

“Everybody knows what’s going on in China, and when facilities are based there you have to accept that there’s a high possibility that forced labor will be used,” said Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun, an alliance of solar businesses seeking to promote sustainable, solar manufacturing based in the EU.

While the U.S. has already rolled out sanctions against products such as cotton and tomatoes originating from Xinjiang, the European Commission has avoided confronting China with any trade measures.

It has fallen to lawmakers in the European Parliament to try to push Brussels to implement trade bans, on all industries including solar panels, if companies are implicated in human rights abuses.

“Import bans need to complement as a last resort if forced labor is involved in the production, like in Xinjiang," said Green MEP Anna Cavazzini.

Suspicions about every panel

For the past decade Beijing has been carrying out a campaign to detain and “reeducate” the Muslim-majority population of the Xinjiang region.

Human rights groups have alerted that state-run reeducation centers double as forced labor camps, with detained people obliged to work in low-skilled, labor-intensive sectors such as cotton picking. But recent reports out of the region suggest the Xinjiang government has also been focusing on “upskilling” the workforce and putting them to work in more specialized sectors.

That’s of particular concern to the global solar industry given Xinjiang’s outsized role in the production of polysilicon, a material used to make photovoltaic (PV) cells.

“Nearly every silicon-based solar module — at least 95 percent of the market — is likely to have some Xinjiang silicon in,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BloombergNEF.

Industry analyst Johannes Bernreuter added that last year roughly 45 percent of the global supply of solar-grade polysilicon came from the region.

Raw polysilicon is transported to factories — usually outside Xinjiang — and melted into cylinders, known as ingots. Because it’s blended with polysilicon produced in other regions, it’s difficult to trace material that could potentially come from forced labor camps in Xinjiang, Chase and Bernreuter said.

For any single solar panel “the mathematical probability is relatively high" it has some material produced in the province, said Bernreuter.

An open secret

Beijing insists the camps — which it calls “vocational training facilities” — are simply “helping people of all ethnic groups secure stable employment” and argues that this is “entirely different from forced labor.”

The China Photovoltaic Industry Association said accusations of forced labor in Xinjiang were ”the lie of the century fabricated by several institutions and people from Western countries.”

In Europe, industry players said the potential use of forced labor to produce material included in solar panels imported into the EU was an open secret.

https://www.politico.eu/article/xinjiang-china-polysilicon-solar-energy-europe/

 

 

Naturally, potential solar panel manufacturers in Europe would like to see punitive tariffs, but this would drastically impact on costs, destroying the idea that solar power is competitive.

My guess is that, despite protests from MEPs, little will change, and a blind eye will be turned just as with the new Russian gas pipeline to Germany. And all for what? Solar power in the EU only accounts for 1.8% of primary energy consumption.

 

Chinese companies dominate global production of solar panels:

 

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https://www.statista.com/statistics/269741/the-biggest-solar-module-manufacturers-worldwide-based-on-production/

 

And even competitors like Canadian Solar rely on plants in Asia and Latin America for their manufacturing. And Panasonic have just pulled out of solar panel manufacturing completely, shutting its Malaysian plant as it is unable to compete with Chinese factories:

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Meanwhile the suffering of the Uighurs will continue.

via NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT

https://ift.tt/3pjICGb

February 14, 2021 at 07:21AM

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