As recently as 2015, India was still looking for a viable alternative to coal—an energy resource it didn’t want to rely on and yet couldn’t live without. “No one would want coal to happen,” the Secretary of India’s Coal Ministry told NPR. “Coal is happening because that is the only alternative available with us at this point in time.”
An alternative has emerged—and Azure Power is delivering it. The India-based solar energy provider, founded and led by Inderpreet Wadhwa, has just announced its initial public offering, at a time when the future of solar looks especially promising in India.
The government of India has set a goal of having 100,000 megawatts of solar capacity by 2022. And Azure is going to help reach it.
At the same time that Sunrun—another Foundation Capital portfolio company—is putting panels on the rooftops of America’s homes, Azure has been both doing that and putting panels on swaths of the Indian countryside. Azure’s nationwide portfolio is approaching 1,000 megawatts and growing. Its IPO positions it to do a great deal more.
It’s an essential effort in a country where the number of people who live without electricity is 304 million (For comparison, the total population of the United States is 319 million.)
But building more solar capacity isn’t just about powering more homes. It’s also about improving public health, especially in urban areas.
The World Health Organization reported that the air in India’s capital had the world’s highest concentration of micro particulates. “In the city of Delhi,” said one physician, “exposure to the air is equal to smoking maybe 10 cigarettes a day.”
Solar can make an outsized impact in India, where half of all emissions come from burning coal. But India is only the beginning. A fifth of the global population lives in parts of the world that do not meet WHO air quality standards. By taking the lead to encourage a strong, sustainable solar energy industry, India is taking a leadership role on the world stage.
By the way, this moment was never inevitable. When Foundation Capital made this seed investment in 2008, there was certainly some trepidation. After all, think of how audacious a claim Inderpreet Wadhwa was making: he could negotiate with the Indian government to build solar plants the size of a hundred football fields at a time of unprecedented political and economic volatility, in a place where incumbent utilities had a clear advantage.
In that sense, what we saw in Azure is something we see in many of our most successful portfolio companies: a tireless entrepreneur creating a massive market opportunity that few others could even begin to envision. Today, Azure has raised the capital, secured the permissions, and built dozens of solar installations. And investors around the world have taken notice.
As Azure looks toward this ongoing opportunity as a public company, we see a prime example of a very rare breed of company—one that seizes a huge market opportunity in its home country and, in doing so, shines new light on a path forward for the rest of the world.
So, congratulations to Inderpreet and the entire team. We’re excited about what Azure is doing and will do—not just to power India’s cities, but also to empower the world’s people.