THE UK should use natural gas – including from "fracking" – to help cut carbon by replacing coal for power supplies in the next few years, a report has suggested.

But it would be risky to assume gas prices will be low in the coming years or that the UK has extensive supplies of shale gas, which is extracted through the controversial process of fracking, the study said.

Gas-fired power stations can only play a significant role in generating electricity beyond 2030 if they are fitted with technology to trap and store their carbon emissions, the report from the Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE warned.

Chancellor George Osborne has provoked controversy with moves that signalled a new "dash for gas", including proposing tax relief for shale gas exploitation, and a gas generation strategy backing use of the fossil fuel for electricity.

Supporters of shale gas claim it could provide large supplies of gas which could reduce the price and provide energy security.

But critics fear the process of fracturing of shale rock with high-pressure liquid to release the gas risks earthquakes and pollution of water supplies.

The report's authors said: "Analysis reveals that substantial investment in gas on the assumption of low prices and large unconventional reserves is a risky option."