Norway names new energy minster, women win majority

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OSLO, Sep 21 (Reuters) Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg appointed a new energy minister today and vowed continuity in policies for the offshore oil and gas sector as well as its renewable energy projects.

Aaslaug Haga, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development in Stoltenberg's Labour-led coalition government, replaced Centre Party colleague Odd Roger Enoksen, who resigned after two years in the post to spend more time with his family.

A women MP will replace Haga in her previous post, making Norway one of the world's first governments where women hold a majority of inisterial positions.

The energy minister is one of the most influential posts in Norway, the world's fifth-biggest crude exporter and Western Europe's biggest natural gas exporter.

''We will continue the same policies,'' Stoltenberg told reporters.

''We will continue our historical work with environmental friendly energy, we have one experienced minister stepping down, and one experienced minister stepping in,'' Stoltenberg said.

Enoksen oversaw preparations to merge the oil and gas activities of Norsk Hydro with bigger rival Statoil by the end of September to form a powerful Norwegian energy group better able to compete abroad.

Haga said she will focus on boosting the role of renewable energy. Norway already mainly uses clean hydropower to produce electricity and has piled billions of crowns into projects to capture and store carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

''My biggest project is to speed up work on renewable energy,'' she said, calling it the ''green gold of the future''.

''We will be a ministry more clear on climate, there is no doubt that the biggest challenges we face are linked to climate change.'' With the appointment of Centre Party deputy Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa as regional development minister, Norway's cabinet will include 10 women and nine men.

''We have worked for about half women, half men, but it is not important whether it weighs one way or the other,'' Stoltenberg told Reuters when announcing the reshuffle.

Norway has for years led a fight for women's rights. In 2005 it was the first country in the world to impose regulations for companies to have women make up at least 40 per cent of their boards, with the aim of getting more women into top business jobs.

About 500 Norwegian companies, including firms listed on the bourse must obey the quota. About 60 per cent of them complied with the rules as of July 12 ahead of the Jan. 1, 2008 deadline when fines can be imposed for those breaching the regulations.

REUTERS ARB AS1913

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