The UK's Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has awarded contracts for research into improving the design of the country's power system.

The UK’s Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has awarded contracts for research into improving the design of the country’s power system.

The ETI – a public-private partnership between the UK government and major energy companies – has asked Foster Wheeler to carry out a five-month study into the economics of flexible power generation systems. It has also launched a project with Hitachi Europe to help develop a smart energy system for the UK.

Foster Wheeler is to assess flexible power generation systems that produce hydrogen from coal, biomass or natural gas, hydrogen storage technology and electricity generation using hydrogen.

The company will conduct the study with the help of the British Geological Survey, and will map suitable salt cavern sites in the UK for hydrogen storage. The study is part of the ETI’s carbon capture and storage programme and will help it to develop a more realistic and robust set of costs and efficiencies for such technology.

"ETI modelling shows that flexible power generation systems comprising hydrogen generation with CCS, intermediate hydrogen storage (particularly using salt caverns) and flexible turbines are potentially attractive components in any future UK energy system," said Andrew Green, ETI CCS Programme Manager. "This project is a first step in a long journey, which could ultimately see such systems as a key part of a future low carbon, flexible and affordable energy system. If successful, the benefits could potentially be huge."

Hitachi is to work with EDF Energy and Imperial Consultants to identify and characterise the technologies required for the successful deployment of a smart energy system.

ETI has also named Hitachi as the prime contractor to identify the ICT infrastructure requirements to enable the smart system.

Both Hitachi projects are due to be completed by the summer and "will ensure the UK is at the front of the pack in developing smart systems that enable an efficient use of energy while meeting consumers’ needs", said Kiyoshi Yamamoto, Managing Director of Hitachi Europe.

Smart energy systems will help the UK’s energy companies to improve the management and delivery of heat and electricity, says the ETI, which commissioned the study under its £100 million smart systems and heat programme.