UCLA-Tata Global Forum sparks lively discussion of sustainable energy
UCLA Vice Provost Cindy Fan (left) with Smriti Zubin Irani, Indian minister of human resource development, during a discussion on January 12, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Tata Trusts.)

UCLA-Tata Global Forum sparks lively discussion of sustainable energy

A recent UCLA-Tata Global Forum in New Delhi brought together high-ranking U.S. and Indian policy makers, academics and business leaders to discuss the challenges of a sustainable energy future.

“UCLA is innovating in solar energy, electric vehicles and energy storage and efficiency . . . What we are learning about the reduction of greenhouse gases in Los Angeles has potential applicability to New Delhi.” Rajit Gadh, UCLA

UCLA International Institute, January 14, 2016 — UCLA and Tata Trusts cosponsored a lively Global Forum, “Innovating for a Sustainable Energy Future,” at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi on January 11 and 12, 2016. The day-and-a-half meeting featured leading UCLA energy and environmental scholars, together with Indian business and government leaders, in discussions of such topics as sustainable megacities, the integration of solar power into smart energy grids and sustainable biological fuels.

The New Delhi event was the inaugural UCLA-Tata Global Forum and was jointly initiated by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Chairman of Tata Trusts Ratan Tata. The goal of the annual forum, which will take place next year on the UCLA campus, is to bring together the world’s most creative thinkers to address major societal problems and offer socially responsible solutions that impact public policy.

Chancellor Block, UCLA Vice Provost for International Studies and Global Engagement Cindy Fan and Chairman Tata opened the proceedings. “It is an honor to collaborate with the Tata Trusts on the UCLA-Tata Global Forum in New Delhi,” said Chancellor Block. “As India’s economic development continues apace, the need for sustainable energy has become more urgent. UCLA’s research on the environment, energy and sustainability — showcased in our ongoing Sustainable LA Grand Challenge — is relevant to megacities worldwide.

“It is our hope that this event will forge mutually beneficial links between India and UCLA to promote innovative sustainable energy solutions and policies,” added Block.

“India,” said Mr. Ratan Tata, “needs to achieve the right balance between economic growth and energy autonomy, while ensuring sustainability. We have the task of not only preserving but nurturing our environment to make this planet a better place to live. This can only be achieved if we collaborate and innovate to develop means that help us achieve our long-term goals.’’

Tata Trusts Chairman Ratan Tata delivers opening remarks at the event. (Photo courtesy of Tata Trusts.)

 Tata Trusts, which work in several areas of community development, are among India's oldest, non-sectarian philanthropic organizations. They seek to be catalysts in development by giving grants to institutions and executing large projects in the areas of natural resources management, rural livelihoods, urban livelihoods and poverty, education, enhancing civil society and governance, health, and arts and culture.

“With Mr. Ratan Tata as our cosponsor,” said Vice Provost Cindy Fan, “we are signaling the importance that UCLA places on connecting education to its application in the world.” Vice Provost Fan inaugurated the UCLA Global Forum series in Asia and Europe in 2015; the forums consider issues of global and local relevance at meetings of UCLA faculty and alumni, supporters and local leaders in countries worldwide.

Discussions led by policy makers and scholars alike

Among the impressive speakers who spoke at the Global Forum, Gururaj Deshpande, president and chairman of Sparta Group LLC and chairman of Tejas Networks, and Smriti Zubin Irani, Indian minister of human resource development, delivered the keynote speeches on the first and second days of proceedings, respectively.

Many of UCLA’s most well-known energy and sustainability experts were also featured at the conference, including Mark Gold, associate vice chancellor for environment and sustainability; James Liao, Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Professor and chair, department of chemical and biomolecular engineering; and Rajit Gadh, professor, Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and founder and director of both the Smart Grid Energy Research Center (SMERC) and the WINMEC Consortium at UCLA.

“The UCLA-Tata Global Forum was a big success,” said Professor Liao. “Both sides exchanged ideas about how UCLA can help India in dealing with energy and sustainability problems. One example is in the area of treating agriculture wastes, where a more efficient technology is needed to avoid pollution and to generate energy.”

Rajit Gadh, director of UCLA's Smart Grid Energy Research Center (SMERC) and WINMEC Consortium, speaks on integrating solar energy into a smart grid. (Photo: Stephen Tan/ UCLA Asia Office.) “UCLA is innovating in solar energy, electric vehicles and energy storage and efficiency in partnership with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP),” said UCLA’s Rajit Gadh. “What we are learning about the reduction of greenhouse gases in Los Angeles has potential applicability to New Delhi.

“In fact, based on our experiences working with the LADWP on research, development and innovation, we would be delighted to partner with the two Delhi utilities — BSES and Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited — on similar joint research projects,” concluded Gadh.

A number of Indian academic and business leaders also spoke at the Global Forum, among them, Sanjay Govind Dhande, founding director, Mahindra École Centrale-College of Engineering, Hyderabad; Kshitij Gupta, officiating director and professor of mechanical engineering, IIT Delhi; Shekhar Gupta, chairman and founding editor, Mediascape Pvt. Ltd.; Prem Kalra, director, Dayalbagh University; Gopal Saxena, director, BSES Rajdhani & Yamuna Power Ltd.; Pramath Raj Sinha, founder and trustee, Asoka University; and Praveer Sinha, CEO and managing director, Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited.

Individual presentations and panel discussions sparked informative exchanges between specialists and policy makers from the United States and India, highlighting shared goals that must be implemented in differing conditions of economic growth, public policy, popular support and budgetary constraints.

The UCLA delegation to the Global Forum (from left): Mark Gold, Rajit Gadh,
Chancellor Gene Block, Cindy Fan, James Liao and Stephen Tan.(Photo courtesy of Tata Trusts.)