In the early 1900's electric power was generated near to the demand centers. Many cities, including small ones like Moose Jaw, contained a central power plant that often supplied waste heat as steam to heat nearby buildings or a downtown core. The first district heating system in North America (a steam system) was installed in Lockport N.Y. in 1878. The first system in Canada (also a steam system) was installed in Winnipeg in 1924. Then technology changed, making large plants more economical and making it feasible to transmit power over long distances. People also became concerned about central power producers polluting the air near the core of city. Power production was removed to large, remote plants, powered by coal, oil, hydro or nuclear. Central district heating systems were shut down.
The trends are now changing again. After many years of reducing real electricity prices, in the early 1970's real prices began to increase in most areas in North America. Over construction due to optimistic demand growth forecasts, significant reduction in demand growth due to conservation, and environmental safety concerns increased electricity costs. For most utilities, demand growth increments were no longer measured in multiples of world-scale power plants (500–1000 MW). At the same time, since its initial development in the 1940's, gas turbine technology has improved so that smaller turbines are now cost effective and reliable for base load power generation. Also, since the late 1970's, in most jurisdictions, power generation is no longer considered a natural monopoly.
Utility monopolies are being redefined and eroded. Hot water district-heating technology was developed and perfected in Europe. Cooling water district drilling systems were developed in North America. New technology has recently been developed that reduces pollutants in gas turbine exhausts to near zero. People and governments are now concerned with CO2 emissions causing global warming. It is now feasible and attractive to move power generation back into the community to produce electricity, heat and cool local buildings and improve local, regional and global environments.
Saskoil, through its subsidiary Moose Jaw Community Energy Ltd., has proposed to construct and operate a cogen plant at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, to produce electricity for the SaskPower grid and heat and cooling for a district energy system ('Trigeneration').
The plant and energy distribution system will cost about $44 million. produce about 25MW of electricity, supply about 50 MMBTU/hr. of heat and cooling. as required, for Saskoil's adjacent asphalt refinery, two hospitals and several buildings in the downtown core of Moose Jaw. In order to optimize project economics and to make the most efficient use of energy, Saskoil will produce power using a combined- cycle plant (gas turbine + steam turbine) and use residual waste heat to produce steam and hot water for the district energy system. This project has been described in more detail elsewhere and is awaiting approval by SaskPower. Saskoil is investigating several other similar projects in Saskatchewan, Western Canada and North America, using this technology.