The UK government has confirmed it is investigating allegations of forced labour in the global solar supply chain, but refused to state whether or not it would be shortly following the US in enacting import sanctions on specific upstream manufacturers in Xinjiang, China.
The US Department of Commerce and US Customs and Border Protection revealed today that imports of metallurgical-grade silicon produced by Hoshine Silicon Industry - one of the world's largest producers of raw polysilicon - alongside products using the raw material will be subject to a withhold and release order (WRO). Products imported to the US that can be traced to include polysilicon from Hoshine are to be detained at all US Ports of Entry immediately.
Solar Power Portal contacted the UK government’s Department for International Trade to calrify whether a similar ban was in the works in Whitehall. The White House has routinely stated that it would be pressing other regions to allign with its policy on forced labour in China, and earlier this month a statement issued after the G7 summit in Cornwall confirmed that a commitment to rid supply chains of forced labour had been reached.
However a UK government spokesperson refused to comment on whether or not the UK would be enacting similar sanctions shortly. "We are thoroughly investigating reports of forced labour in the global solar panel supply chain," the spokesperson said.
"In January we announced a comprehensive package of measures to help ensure no UK organisations are complicit in the serious human rights violations being perpetrated against the Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.
“We have provided detailed and specific guidance to UK businesses, and we will continue to engage businesses, including on these latest allegations."
The UK solar industry has lent its voice to the anti forced labour calls that have come from the global industry, voicing support for plans to develop a supply-chain transparency protocol to tackle concerns over forced labour in April.
In a statement developed in consultation with industry members as part of Solar Energy UK’s ongoing supply chain sustainability workstream organisations including Bluefield Partners, Lightsource BP and NextEnergy Capital stated they “condemn and oppose any abuse of human rights, including forced labour, anywhere in the global supply chain” and added they supported applying the highest possible levels of transparency and sustainability throughout the value chain.
This came after a global collection of 175 solar manufacturers, utilities and developers including SunPower, ENGIE North America, Tesla and LONGi signed a pledge to ensure the supply chain is free of forced labour in February.
Further information on the US ban as it evolves can be found on sister site PV Tech.