OPT: Mixed response from multinationals in Israeli solar sector accused of contributing to Palestinian displacement

In May 2018, Who Profits published a report that examines how Israel's solar energy industry contributes to Palestinian displacement. The report claims that Israeli solar projects in the Negev desert and Area C of the occupied West Bank descriminate against Palestinian communities, who are deliberately left without a connection to the national Israeli electricity grid – the only electricity grid covering both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory

According to Who Profits, six multinational companies are allegedly involved in Israel's energy-related discriminatory practices and violations of international law. They are ABB, Fassi, JA SOLAR, PGR Drive Technologies, SMA Solar Technology, and Volvo. The allegations include supplying equipment to solar feilds in illegal Israeli settlements and supplying machinary to the Israel Civil Administration used to confiscate solar panels powering off-grid Palestinian homes. The most serious human rights concerns were raised against Volvo. In addition to the previously mentioned violations, Volvo is allegedly involved in multiple house demolishes in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Negev. The Swedish multinational has also reportedly supplied maintenance trucks to the Jerusalem Light Rail project, which connects settlements in occupied East Jerusalem to one another.

Business & Human Rights invited the six companies to respond to these allegations. ABB, PGR Drive Technologies, SMA Solar Technology, and Volvo provided responses, available below. Fassi and JA SOLAR did not respond.

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Company non-response
26 June 2018

JA SOLAR did not respond to concerns regarding its involvement in Israeli solar fields

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited JA SOLAR to respond to the allegations. JA SOLAR did not respond.

Company non-response
25 June 2018

Fassi did not respond to concerns regarding its involvement in Israeli solar fields

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Fassi to respond to the allegations. Fassi did not respond.

Article
21 June 2018

PGR Drive Technologies responds to concerns regarding its involvement in Israeli solar fields

Author: PGR Drive Technologies

We would like to thank you once again for your warning. PGR Drive Technologies produces gearbox and our products are intermediate products between machinary application and the power of these applications (such as electric motor or hydraulic motor). Because of our products are commercial products, we could not know where our products are used by Israeli companies, such as our products published in the report of “Who Profits”. Therefore, PGR Drive Technologies does not have a way of knowing whether its products are used for this project or whether it provides any services to this Project.

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Company response
19 June 2018

ABB responds to concerns regarding its involvement in Israeli solar fields

Author: ABB

With respect to claims by WhoProfits in their report, “Plundering the sun: The Israeli solar energy industry and Palestinian forced displacement” of May 2018, ABB states that it has not sold products or services to, nor made any investments into the Kalia solar energy project. The product packaging pictured in the report represents a standard product that is sold globally via distributors and wholesalers, and is re-sold further, not only to end-customers, but also to other distributors and wholesalers. Given the standard nature of that product and the global nature of ABB’s business, it is not possible to track or control where such products are finally installed. ABB remains committed to doing business in compliance with applicable international regulations and according to our Group policies, which include support for internationally recognized human rights and seeking to avoid complicity in human rights abuses. We do not consider that ABB has violated those principles as has been implied by WhoProfits in the case of the Kalia solar field.

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Company response
18 June 2018

SMA Solar Technology responds to concerns regards its involvement in Israeli solar fields

Author: SMA Solar Technology

... As a signatory of the UN Global Compact, SMA Solar Technology AG is highly committed to adhering to the principles and rules of responsible corporate governance, including upholding human rights in all aspects of our business. Using cost-efficient and sustainable solar energy is a major factor for development in many countries in the sunbelt area of the world, including the Middle East. We have delivered our solutions to many of these countries, for example to power a UNHCR refugee camp in Jordan (https://www.sma-sunny.com/en/solar-park-supplies-power-to-refugee-camp-in-jordan/) and a plastic molding company in Lebanon (https://www.sma.de/produkte/referenzen/zouk-mosbeh-libanon.html). We have also supplied several projects in the core land of Israel. However, we were not aware of the Kalia Solar Field using our inverters in the Palestinian territories until this was brought to our attention by you as we did not deliver the inverters to the project. It is most likely that the devices have been delivered through an Israel-based wholesaler to the project without our knowledge... [W]e will enhance our efforts even further to ensure that our inverters are not used in sensitive cases like this...

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Company response
18 June 2018

Volvo responds to concerns regarding its involvement in the Israeli occupation

Author: Malin Ripa, Volvo Group

... Thank you for providing Volvo Group with the opportunity to respond to a recently published report by Who Profits related to the use of Volvo machinery and trucks in Israel and Palestine. The Volvo Group is a producer of trucks, heavy machinery, buses, marine and industrial engines with business in more than 190 countries. We conduct our business operations in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions. The Volvo Group respects human rights and is a signatory of the UN Global Compact since 2001. In Israel and Palestine we sell our products and services through private business partners and have done so for a long time. Volvo products have a long life span, may be leased/rented, and may change ownership several times. As mentioned in previous responses to you on this topic, we are thus limited in our possibilities to influence how Volvo products are used throughout their entire life cycle. We do not believe that the sale of Volvo products to business partners in Israel can reasonably be seen as a breach of our commitments under the UN Global Compact...

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Report
10 May 2018

Plundering the Sun: The Israeli Solar Energy Industry and Palestinian Forced Displacement

Author: Who Profits

... In this flash report, we will first outline Israel’s booming solar energy industry, which is supported by state policies and financial incentives for corporations. We will review specific policies incentivizing investment for commercial and residential solar fields in both the Naqab and Area C. In both places, communities are deliberately marginalized and un-electrified, contributing to the coercive environment that leads to forced displacement... In stark contrast to Israel’s boosting of its own solar industry, it utilizes its planning and zoning regime to strangle Palestinian natural growth, economic development and ability to develop green systems.  The threat of property demolitions constantly looms over every aspect of life in Area C of the West Bank and in unrecognized villages in the Naqab... In this report, Who Profits documents the entry of four additional international corporations – ABB Group, SMA Solar Technology, PGR Drive Technologies and JA Solar Holdings in Israel’s solar energy industry. [The report highlights] the corporate profiles for these corporations and for corporations involved in the confiscation of small-scale Palestinian solar systems on both sides of the Green Line – Fassi Ltd. and Volvo Group...

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