Visa Inc. is a global leader in digital payments, facilitating transactions between consumers, merchants, financial institutions and governments across more than 200 countries and territories. With operations spanning the globe, in 2018 Visa set an ambitious goal: to source 100% renewable electricity to power its offices and data centers worldwide.
In 2020, just two short years after setting the target, Visa achieved its 100% renewable electricity goal across its 131 offices and four data centers. This milestone was reached through a combination of on-site renewable energy generation and power purchase agreements (PPAs) for off-site solar and wind energy. Visa's CEO at the time, Al Kelly, described the company’s view of the achievement by saying “we see both a responsibility and an opportunity to make broad shifts toward a sustainable and inclusive future, [and] I’m proud of the investments we’ve made in our infrastructure to reach this important renewable energy milestone. We will continue to prioritize advancing the role of our business and industry in transitioning to a cleaner global economy.”
Douglass Sabo, Visa’s Chief Sustainability Officer at the time noted that “with the world’s growing focus on the global challenges of climate change, we recognize and understand the need to play a leadership role in helping build a more sustainable future. For Visa, this achievement shows how we are dedicated to being a force for good and leading the way in sustainable business practices.” In the company’s 2022 ESG Report, current CEO Ryan McInerney assured that Visa’s commitments to sustainability will continue saying “both internally and through our engagement with clients and partners, we remain committed to advancing sustainability. Building on our achievement of reaching 100 percent renewable electricity use and carbon neutral operations, we continue to make strides toward our goal of being a net zero company by 2040.”
The Scale of Visa's Renewable Energy Procurement
To understand the significance of Visa's 100% renewable electricity achievement, it helps to understand the company's journey from the beginning. Initially, Visa to a market by market, localized approach. They began by working with local utilities and competitive electricity market providers to leverage renewable electricity options that best fit their approach to renewable electricity. Visa chose local renewable electricity investments in markets where it had major facilities, including four locations in the U.S. and the U.K. that account for 80 percent of its global electricity use. Ultimately, the strategy was executed by enrolling in utility and other renewable programmes and buying renewable energy certificates (RECs).
In 2021, Visa expanded its strategy by agreeing to a PPA that replaced a portion of its REC purchases with electricity from the solar projects in Virginia and associated project RECs. This was hugely significant given that the Virginia data center accounted for ⅓ of Visa’s global power consumption. For Visa, Sabo explained the trifecta nature of the opportunity stating that “the agreement contributes to Visa’s climate action agenda, supports new renewable energy generation across the commonwealth of Virginia, and contributes to a positive impact on the environment and local economic development.”
Most recently, according to the company’s 2022 ESG Report, Visa expanded its renewable energy procurement to their largest office in Asia, Bangalore. In 2022 they began procuring electricity from renewable sources, accounting for almost 70 percent of electricity consumed and reducing the site's reliance on RECs. Having achieved their stated renewable electricity goal, Visa’s multi-year approach remains focused on identifying opportunities to increase additionality to the grid through investments and/or enrollments in renewable electricity offerings, including through long-term renewable electricity purchase agreements, while reducing the purchase of unbundled RECs.
With the 100% renewable electricity milestone now achieved, Visa will need to focus on maintaining this target even as its business continues rapid growth. As more payments are processed, Visa's energy needs will continue rising. Thus, continuing to source 100% renewable energy will be crucial to meeting these science-based emissions reduction targets. The ability to lock in cost-effective renewables access at scale in the future is expected to be the company’s objective.
Accelerating Renewables Growth through Additionality
While Visa's existing renewable electricity strategy has already catalyzed new wind in Europe and solar projects in the US, incorporating renewable energy certificates (RECs) with "additionality" could further accelerate the transition to renewables across electricity grids.
RECs with additionality help fund new renewable energy projects, increasing the supply and speeding up the broader decarbonization of electricity markets. This can potentially mitigate costs as well as risks of future renewable electricity procurement for companies like Visa. More renewables supply can also provide the scale for emission reduction strategies to keep pace with rising corporate electricity consumption from business growth.
Ultimately, by spurring faster renewables expansion, RECs with additionality enable companies like Visa to make an even more meaningful impact - both reducing emissions from their own operations and helping to transform markets along the way.
Therefore, RECs with additionality could accelerate the transition to renewable energy on the grid, mitigate costs associated with continued renewable energy procurement, enable more impactful marketing claims for sustainability purposes, and provide the scale needed for emission reduction strategies to cover increased electricity consumption as the business continues to grow.
In total, Visa's renewable electricity commitment has been instrumental in reducing emissions, serving as a blueprint for sustainable growth, and accelerating the broader renewable energy transition - cementing Visa's leadership in building a healthier, more sustainable future for all.