Former president of India opens Northeastern green-energy conference

India’s eleventh president (2002-2007), Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, spoke Monday on energy independence during the opening session of a three-day Northeastern University symposium. Clean energy options require a “multilayered global effort,” he said, recommending a broad-spectrum approach to ending global dependence on fossil fuel.

Kalam praised the Northeastern University Center for Renewable Energy Technology (NUCRET) for its exploration of technologies such as solar and wind power and biofuels—green technologies that meet global demand for clean energy and water—and the study of the economic and policy factors that make such technologies possible.

Impressed with Northeastern’s multidisciplinary research approach to real-world problems, Kalam said he wholeheartedly supports the exploration of all “clean” options to fossil fuels, including wind energy, solar power, and nuclear power. He described efforts in India to harness wind energy and better develop nuclear options. The country is also expanding the amount of ethanol it blends with gasoline to reduce reliance on crude oil, he said.

“I am delighted to participate with Northeastern University,” said Kalam, in efforts to promote “technology that will play a role in development of new, green energy.” Such efforts include the work of NUCRET’s director and chemistry and chemical biology professor, Sanjeev Mukerjee, on enhancing fuel cells and batteries.

Kalam spoke on a panel that included Robert Armstrong, deputy director of MIT Energy Initiative, and Radha Jalan, CEO of ElectroChem, Inc., a Massachusetts-based fuel cell research company.

Armstrong said clean energy faces a “perfect storm,” in which issues such as supply and demand, security, and environment all play a role. He added that today’s innovators have breakthrough research and molecular biology on their side—“so much more to work with than we had in the 1970s.” Jalan, too, described the “exciting green technologies,” but warned that “being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart.”

The recipient of honorary degrees from 30 universities worldwide, Kalam was to receive the prestigious Hoover Medal from Columbia University on April 28.

Established in March 2009, NUCRET represents a multidisciplinary team of leaders in the fields of chemistry, physics, biophysics, engineering, economics and policy analysis. Working closely with collaborators around the world, NUCRET is dedicated to developing green energy technologies that will help meet global needs for clean energy and water.

The conference, “Energy Challenges for the New Millennium,” continues through Wednesday. For more information, please visit