A ‘certificate of origin’ scheme could counter concerns about renewables supply chains, says Clean Energy Council

The Australian clean energy industry has warned of growing evidence linking renewable energy supply chains to modern slavery, and urged companies and governments to act to eliminate it.

A report by the Clean Energy Council, representing renewable energy companies and solar installers, has called for more local renewable energy production and manufacturing and a “certificate of origin” scheme to counter concerns about slave labour in mineral extraction and manufacturing in China, Africa and South America.

Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

About 2.6 million Uyghur and Kazakh people have been subjected to coercion, “re-education programs” and internment in the Xinjiang region of north-west China, which is the source of 40-45% of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon. A report by the United Nations office of the high commissioner for human rights three months ago found Xinjiang was home to “serious human rights violations”, and the US has listed polysilicon from China as a material likely to have been produced by child or forced labour.

On batteries, there were major issues with the mining of between 15% and 30% of the world’s cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Amnesty International found that children, some as young as seven, were working in artisanal cobalt mines, often for less than $2 a day. Mining conditions were reportedly hazardous, and workers often did not have adequate protective equipment and were exposed to toxic dust that contributed to hard metal lung disease.

On wind energy, there had been rapid growth in demand for balsa wood used in turbine blades that had reportedly led to workers in Ecuador’s Amazon region being subject to substandard labour conditions, including payment being made with alcohol or drugs. The demand for balsa has also reportedly increased deforestation, and affected the land rights of Indigenous people in Peru. Some balsa wood suppliers have more recently provided Forest Stewardship Council certifications, which verifies responsible forest management and fair wages and work environments.

Continue reading…

%d bloggers like this: