The European Solar Manufacturing Council (ESMC) has called on the European Commission to develop and implement a comprehensive legislative package aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of the continent's solar manufacturing sector. This includes a notable emphasis on banning the use of solar products manufactured using forced labor.
The ESMC's plea follows the European Commission's recent adoption of a legislative package designed to tackle significant challenges in the wind power industry. These challenges encompass issues such as inadequate and uncertain demand, protracted and intricate permitting processes, and limited access to essential raw materials, as highlighted in a Commission press release. The package introduces various measures, including initiatives to expedite projects, provide auction support, and facilitate access to EU financing.
The Brussels-based ESMC argues for a three-pronged legislative package to safeguard the solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing industry from what it deems “existential challenges.” These challenges arise from external supply pressures and the imperative to meet European manufacturing targets.
The proposed package includes “emergency measures” to prevent the potential bankruptcy of module producers. The ESMC has revealed that some major PV module manufacturers are contemplating significant decisions regarding the closure of production facilities or the relocation of their manufacturing operations to other regions, with decisions expected by mid-November.
The first element of the package seeks to ensure the uptake of European-produced PV projects. It involves reserving a portion of the market for domestically produced solar products, with the ESMC suggesting that the target could start at 10% by 2025, escalating to a more substantial goal, such as 40% or 40 gigawatts of PV manufacturing capacity by 2040.
The second component aims to bolster the resilience of the European solar supply chain, establishing legislative mechanisms through annual benchmarks and mandatory guidelines.
The final piece of the legislative package is the prohibition of solar PV products manufactured using forced labor. The ESMC recommends leveraging the existing Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) Entity List to ban the entry of PV products produced with forced labor into the EU market.
The U.S. Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), effective since June 2022, prohibits the import of goods into the United States that have been manufactured using forced labor in China, particularly in the Xinjiang region. Xinjiang is a key global source of polysilicon, a critical material in conventional solar modules.
The European Commission had proposed a similar ban on products made with forced labor in the EU market in 2022, and the European Parliament Market and Trade Committee has indicated its commitment to this proposed legislation.
Under this legislation, if a company is found to have employed forced labor, all imports and exports of their related goods would be halted at the EU's borders, and companies would be required to withdraw such goods from the EU market. These items would then be either donated, recycled, or destroyed.