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Data Center Captures New Value with Existing Energy Assets

How a data center in Canada uses its backup generators to earn Demand Response payments

This Data Center case study is based on a project developed in Enel X North America.

The need

One telecommunications company in Calgary, Alberta, owns three data centers. “We have one data center in a very old part of Calgary that has outages more often, so it’s good that the guys are trained on how to do it.” “If any one of the three were to go down, it would cause significant network disruption across the country.” For a data center, operational stability is crucial. Because of their importance, the data center is manned 24/7 and use generators in case of an emergency.


Because of the nature of our business and the importance of protecting customer data,  it was crucial that an Demand Response directive not cause any disruption to the data center.

The solution: Simple workflow

Demand Response is a program in that business agrees to lower their energy use by a certain amount if the local grid is strained, and in exchange earns payments for being on standby.


A program this data center participates in cannot cause any disruption to day-to-day operations at the data center.


Directives are the times when Enel X instructs customers to lower their energy use, and these only happen a handful of days each year—most days, the data center is paid simply for theiWith Enel X, responding to directives is easy. When they are notified of an event, whoever is on duty at that time simply walks over to the generator and transfers all load onto their backup system. Businesses have ten minutes to respond to a directive, but switching to backup generation simplifies the process. “It’s a simple process.
It takes one person. You basically just hit two buttons, and we can go totally islanded from the grid within two minutes.”


By using a closed circuit transfer switch, the data center experiences no disruption in power. “There’s no bump in service whatsoever. It’s a very smooth transition. Same with going back onto the grid.”

The benefits

The data center uses the generators often, even outside of the Demand Response event. By running the generator in response to Demand Response, it is possible to verify that the generator will operate without problems even in an emergency.


Enel X customers frequently tout this as a benefit to enrolling generators in DR– without occasional directives, customers may otherwise go years without using their generators and are often unprepared in case of a true emergency.


For this data center in Canada, it’s simply a necessity and something they have already been practicing for years. It’s been essential in ensuring the staff is always ready. This data center has been able to utilize a new revenue stream from the existing generators since 2014 with the support of Enel X. “It’s been a successful program.  I recommend Enel X to other data centers that are considering participating in Demand Response.”  

Note: This data center case study is based on work with Enel X and data center in Canada. In Japan, Enel X supports global and local customers to help them to save on energy costs, earn a new revenue stream and achieve carbon neutral targets with customized products and services. Contact us to learn more.