Full Title: Solar Energy, Modern Slavery and the Just Transition
Author(s): James Cockayne, Edgar Rodríguez Huerta, Oana Burcu
Publisher(s): University of Nottingham Rights Lab
Publication Date: March 29, 2022
Full Text: Download Resource
This project considers how the solar energy sector can best address modern slavery risks. Around 40 per cent of the global supply of polysilicon – a critical component of solar panels – comes from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where it is reported to be made with state-sponsored forced labour. And between 15 and 30 per cent of the cobalt in lithium-ion batteries used widely to store solar energy, including in electric vehicles (EVs), comes from informal mines in Democratic Republic of Congo, where forced and child labour are common.
The project was funded by the British Academy’s Just Transitions within Sectors and Industries Globally programme. It produced a major research report, [Download here PDF] ‘The Energy of Freedom’?: Solar energy, modern slavery and the Just Transition, which warns that without a clear roadmap to transition to ‘slavery-free’ arrangements, the solar market may split into ‘slavery-free’ and ‘slave-made’ value-chains, raising costs, lengthening roll-out times and slowing decarbonization – without necessarily addressing the underlying drivers of modern slavery. The industry needs a global roadmap to move to a slavery-free footing, the report argues.
The report sets out a new method for estimating the forced labour risk in countries’ on-grid, photovoltaic (PV) solar energy production, along with ideas for international collaboration to combat that risk.