March 28, 2013 / 1:04 PM / 5 years ago

Britain drops pro-coal energy minister after just six months

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain replaced outspoken junior energy minister John Hayes on Thursday after only six months in the job as government efforts to overhaul the electricity sector and cut carbon emissions reach a critical juncture.

During his brief tenure the Conservative Hayes clashed over policy with his boss, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey, a member of the Liberal Democrats.

The two parties form Britain’s ruling coalition.

Their difference included topics such as whether Britain should finance new windfarms and stick to carbon-reduction targets.

Hayes vowed earlier this year to put “coal back into the coalition” and guarantee a major role for the highly-polluting fossil fuel in Britain’s energy mix.

Yet Britain’s energy bill, currently under scrutiny by parliament, effectively rules out new coal-fired stations that lack carbon capture and storage technology.

Conservative Michael Fallon will become Energy Minister, replacing Hayes who will become Minister without Portfolio (Minister of State), DECC said.

Fallon is also a Minister of State at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

A cold spring has boosted Britain’s imported wholesale gas prices, depleting its stores of gas and sparking fears of fatter energy bills for already cash-strapped consumers.

Fallon’s previous support for renewable energy is in contrast to many of his Conservative colleagues, particularly those elected in rural areas where wind turbines are opposed by local campaigners.

“Michael Fallon has a real opportunity to clean up our power sector, capitalise on clean, home-grown energy and properly open Britain for green business,” Greenpeace said.

Reporting by John McGarrity and Oleg Vukmanovic; editing by Jason Neely

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