A Conservative politician with anti-wind views has been appointed a junior energy minister at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), following changes made by the country's prime minister David Cameron to his ministerial team.
John Hayes' appointment is likely to raise concerns amongst offshore wind developers, given his past description of onshore wind farms as a “terrible intrusion” on the landscape. In 2009, the BBC quoted him as saying that “renewable energy needs to pass the twin tests of environmental and economic sustainability and wind power fails on both counts.”
The departure of Hendry, who now holds no ministerial position, has come as a shock to the UK renewable energy sector. He was well-respected for his knowledge and oversaw the UK's recent investigation into the cost of offshore wind energy. Trade body RenewableUK welcomed Hayes, and emphasised his previous experience as a junior minister overseeing the UK's efforts to improve the technical skills of its workforce.
Liberal Democrat politician, Ed Davey, has been promoted DECC's political leader. Appointed in February 2012, and speaking with Windpower Offshore in July, Davey insisted that the UK would remain the “global leader in offshore wind”.
It is too early to know whether Hayes' appointment, combined with personnel changes within DECC and other parts of the UK government, will create substantial new delays to decisions about electricity market reform (EMR) and plans for a new system to support low-carbon energy generation via contracts for difference (CfDs).
The CfD regime is due to enter into force in 2017, but even before this week's changes at DECC, offshore wind operators were concerned that the ministry was taking too long to decide on the details of how CfDs will operate. Such delays risk undermining the UK's attractiveness to offshore wind investors.