Chris Huhne, a member of the centrist Liberal Democrats, was given the post after his party entered a coalition government with the centre-right Conservative party after last week's inconclusive general election.
It is the first peacetime coalition government in the UK for 70 years.
Huhne told the BBC that he thought "the most scandalous legacy" of the past 13 years of government by the centre-left Labour Party was "the fact that here we are sitting on the part of Europe that has the most potential for wind power. For tidal power, for wave power.
"We literally have an abundance of potential renewable energy and yet we have one of the worst records of any country in the European Union for generating electricity from renewables".
He added: "We have got to get renewables way up, we've got to make sure we're much more energy efficient."
Under the coalition agreement the two parties have committed to "seek to increase the target for energy from renewable sources," subject to the advice of a parliamentary committee that scrutinises climate change policy.
The agreement also said the two parties agreed "to implement a full programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for a low carbon and eco-friendly economy", but agreed to differ on nuclear power, which historically the Conservatives have supported and the Liberal Democrats have opposed.
New nuclear power stations would be permitted only if they could be built without public subsidy.