Clean-tech needs to be clean
Don't have too much sympathy for investors in Jinko Solar who saw over 20% of their investment wiped off of the company's valuation following protests at one of the company's Chinese manufacturing facilities by the local community. If they had looked at www.solarscorecard.com they might have thought twice about investing.
Jinko Solar has become the latest casualty in growing levels of anger being directed at Chinese companies that fail to implement adequate pollution control measures. Jinko - which manufactures solar photovoltaic cells and modules - was under-siege for three days in mid-September when 500 people from local communities gathered to protest against discharges from the factory that were killing fish in the local river and drifting over local communities.
According to news agencies, production at the facility in Haining was subseqently suspended and the company ordered to pay a $75,000 fine with a requirement to reduce levels of polluting discharges which had been in excess of legal limits since April 2011.
As enthusiastic investors in solar PV, we have been concerned about poor environmental, health and safety practice in the sector for many years. Since 2008 we have been working with the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition to encourage solar companies to put in place effective systems for managing these sorts of issues (see www.solarscorecard.com). Jinko was one of a shrinking number of companies that had refused to respond to our questionnaire. However, we have been very pleased by the performance of some other Chinese solar companies (including Yingli, Trina and others). These companies now have facilities that rival the world's best in terms of the quality of their manufacturing processes and the attention they give to environmental and workforce issues.
Some analysts have warned that there is a danger that the impact of the protests may tarnish the reputation all Chinese solar manufacturers. More optimistically the response to this incident may be increased operating standards - and increased compliance costs - for poorer manufacturers. Either way it is clear that being a solar company is not a free pass to guarantee public and government support. Clean technology manufacturers also need to be clean.seb beloe