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Britain should abolish its renewable energy target and use the cost savings to invest in natural gas-fed power stations and revamp houses to make them more energy-efficient, according to researchers at Policy Exchange.

Britain could save as much as 900 million pounds ($1.4 billion) a year by scaling back ambitious wind-power projects around its coastline, the research group in London said in a report published today. The U.K. should install about 9 gigawatts of offshore wind generation, rather than 13 gigawatts, and plug the gap using natural gas-fed plants, according to the report, written by Simon Less, a senior consultant at the Policy Exchange.

“We need a proper debate about the right rate of deployment of the most expensive renewable technologies,” Less said in an e-mailed statement accompanying the report. “We need to make best use of limited resources to maximize emissions reduction and overall low carbon innovation.”

The European Union has a target of getting 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020. As part of this goal, the U.K. would need to get 30 percent of its electricity from own renewable sources. Alternative power accounted for 9.5 percent of the country’s generation last year, government figures show.

Scaling back the wind-power target would free up cash to invest in research for low-carbon technologies and improving energy efficiency in homes, according to the report. The savings would also be enough to allow the government to buy enough European Union carbon allowances to cover the emissions from the additional gas-fed stations six times over, it said.

The proposed measures won’t hinder Britain’s goal of cutting emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, the Policy Exchange said. The group, funded by charitable donations and established in 2002, favors free-market solutions, according to its website. Some of its recommendations on carbon pricing and the development of shale gas in the U.K. have been taken on board by the government.

Bloomberg, 8 June 2012