Orsted’s board of directors has appointed Trond Westlie as its new chief financial officer and Patrick Harnett as its next chief operational officer, as the global offshore wind champion plots a route out of its financial woes.

Westlie will replace Rasmus Errboe, who had acted as interim CFO since mid-November 2023 and by the end of March will return to his position as CEO of the Europe region.

Westlie previously had served as CFO at Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, at VEON, Telenor, and Aker Kvaerner. Westlie currently is chair of the board at Norwegian investment company Arendals Fossekompani, and board member at Wilhelmsen Group, a Norwegian multinational maritime company.

Internal promotion Harnett will replace Andy Brown, who has acted as interim COO since mid-November and will step down at the end of March. The two will start in April.

The new hires fill gaps left by former CFO Daniel Lerup and operations boss Richard Hunter who stepped down “by mutual agreement” in November.

The new CFO and COO will “bring strong international financial skills and execution skills to the group executive team and support the successful implementation of the strategy plan we announced on 7 February 2024,” Orsted chairman Thomas Thune Andersen said.

Orsted in early February announced a major downgrade in its ambitions including a reduced renewables build target, job cuts, a reduction of fixed costs, an exit from some markets and “leaner development” in floating wind.

The target and cost-cutting came as the company posted a more than $3bn loss for last year, which was heavily impacted by a massive provision for cancellation fees related to a decision to halt development of the Ocean Wind offshore developments in the US.

“Trond Westlie has very strong competencies from an impressive career as CFO in several global, listed companies, while Patrick has already demonstrated his strong skills in project execution by building Hornsea 2,” Orsted CEO Mads Nipper said.

Sensible solution

"Given the scale of the US problems in terms of amount, it may seem like a limited replacement that Trond Westlie is the only new outsider in the management," Sydbank chief analyst Jacob Pedersen in a note to investors said that

"In relation to the nature of the problems, however, Orsted's new management team looks like a healthy and sensible solution."

While the US problems are hurting the company, a long period of largely flawless project execution on agreed time and budget precedes it, Pedersen explained.

"The fact that Orsted chooses the company's new director of operations internally confirms, in our opinion, the signals that the problems in the USA are defined, identifiable and can be learned from."

The incoming COO Harnett is currently head of the company’s European execution programmes and in charge of project development and construction of the world’s largest single offshore wind farm, Hornsea 3 off the UK.

Before joining Orsted, he held positions within projects and operations at the energy companies Centrica and EDF.

“I look forward to continuing the implementation of our new project operating model, which will ensure stronger risk management, contingency planning, and governance when executing projects,” Harnett said.

UPDATES to add analyst comment.

Get the Recharge News App
Read high quality news and insight on the energy transition on-the-go