Solar projects set up by the Ministry of Defense, the government’s coal authorities, joint utilities and some of Britain’s largest renewable energy developers are using a panel accused of forcible exploitation of labor camps in Xinjiang province by Chinese solar companies, a patron investigation found is.
Confidential industry data shows that 40% of the UK’s solar farms were built using panels manufactured by China’s largest solar panel companies, including Ginko Solar, JA Solar and Trina Solar.
These firms have been named in a recent report on the internment of more than 1 million men and women from the Muslim Uyghur community, in which UK lawmakers voted on Thursday to describe the massacre.
Companies with factories or major suppliers in Xinjiang produce one-third of the polysilicon material used to make the world’s solar panels, according to a detailed report by the US. Consultancy Horizon advice. China is the world leader in polysilicon production.
The report found that Chinese solar companies had indicators of forced labor in Xinjiang, where Uygar was under house arrest through this polysilicon production.
The suppression of China’s Uygars is believed to have developed as a systematic detention since 2016, with reports of forced labor in the region for years.
An industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Guardian that the industry was scrambling to distance itself from the use of forced labor, and panels of four to four companies in 10 of Britain’s existing solar farms The report containing the names was created using.
While many were built before 2016, the Guardian has found a string of more recent deals that raise questions about how UK businesses and government agencies are paying attention to their supply chains.
Many manufacturers in China’s solar industry operate factories in countries across Asia, but may still use raw polysilicon materials produced in Xinjiang, which makes it difficult to determine whether a particular production line is subject to alleged labor exploitation In contact or not. China limits access to observers and media outside of Xinjiang.
The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) this month revealed plans to set up 80 solar farms on military assets in Leconfield, East Yorkshire, with thousands of panels made by Trina Solar as part of a deal with UK energy firm Matric Was used.
MoD did not answer questions about what it had investigated on the companies’ supply chains, or that a panel with possible links to forced labor was used at other sites. A MoD spokesperson said: “We have robust processes that allow us to monitor and regularly monitor all aspects of our supply chain, which are kept under constant review.”
The UK’s Coal Authority is a government agency sponsored by the Department for Trade, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with solar panels made by JA Solar across its wealth of former mining sites since 2017.
A government spokesman said: “We are thoroughly investigating recent allegations of forced labor in solar panel supply chains. In January, we announced a comprehensive package of measures to ensure that no UK organizations engage in serious human rights violations against Uigars and other minorities in Xinjiang. “
Some of Britain’s most prolific solar developers have used a panel of Xinjiang-linked companies. The Guardian has found that the panel of Chinese companies was used in projects built since 2016 by Norway’s Statecraft-owned FTSE 100 water company United Utilities, Scottish Water and large solar developers including Bluefield Solar, Forcesit Solar and SolarEntry.
As recently as January, Longi Solar, another panel manufacturer, said it had shipped solar modules to an unnamed project near Rugby, Warwickshire.
The UK has had a sharp slowdown in solar development since 2017, when the government cut subsidies. However, officials said the companies were deeply embedded in the UK industry before and after 2016. The Forbes Solar Fund, a developer of some of the UK’s largest sites, said in its 2020 annual report that Trina supplied 13% of its panels, while J.A. Solar provided 11%.
Chris Hewett, chief executive of Solar Energy UK, a lobby group, said: “This is a matter which members of the UK solar energy industry are taking seriously.” He said that making global supply chains “as transparent and sustainable as possible” is of “significant degree of complexity”.
Hewett said the UK solar industry was working with international trade bodies to develop a “traceability protocol” to protect the global supply chain from human rights abuses.
Xinjiang’s polysilicon interests are allegedly controlled by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, an economic and paramilitary organization that faces US sanctions after allegations that the group facilitated widespread human rights abuses against Uygar Muslims .
Horizon, the consultancy, said that polysilicon companies appear to actively participate in the “rehabilitation of ethnic Uighurs, where they” reorganize labor in production facilities in Xinjiang “and the” re-education “programs of the Uyger The report claimed that the reliance on Xinjiang effectively “reflects the entire solar supply chain in human rights atrocities”.
Many of the largest Chinese solar manufacturers are closely linked. DiCao Group is one of the world’s largest polysilicon suppliers with significant operations in Xinjiang, providing its high purity silicon to Jinko Solar and Longi. According to Horizon, Longi supplies solar panel components to companies including JA Solar and Trina Solar.
No manufacturer responded to the Guardian’s requests for comment on the use of forced labor in the Xinjiang region. Ginko has previously stated that it condemns the use of forced labor and that the Horizon report does not “demonstrate forced labor in our facilities”.
Centrica, which is responsible for developing MoD’s solar projects, said: “We condemn the use of forced labor in the strongest possible terms.”
A spokesman said the company had worked “extensively” with Trina Solar over the past eight years. The spokesperson said that it used to receive anti-slavery statements from Trina the whole time, and also made a “visit to quality assurance” at its main manufacturing site in China.
United Utilities said that all of the panel’s contracts contained clauses regarding modern slavery, adding that it would investigate any evidence of workers’ misconduct in its supply chain. Scottish Water said it would examine the Horizon report, and said it would ask suppliers to confirm that they conformed to expected standards. Foresight and Bluefield pointed to Solar Energy UK’s position on modern slavery.
Solarcentury said the supply chain was a “complex process”, but added: “Going forward we will award new contracts, where suppliers can demonstrate that polysilicon has been snatched from a factory for our projects that is human Respects rights and which we can audit. “