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 www​.north​eastern​.edu/​n​u​c​ret.