Reflections on the TEA Forum: Embracing partnerships, delivering impact and fostering locally driven energy access

By Jiska de Groot, 8 April 2024

As I reflect on the recent TEA Forum on my flight back to South Africa, I can’t help but stand still for a minute at how far we’ve come since I received my first email from the Carbon Trust in 2016, proposing a joint proposal with the University of Cape Town to deliver the TEA programme for FCDO.

Jiska de Groot presenting on the TEA-LP. Source: Mascha Moorlach

I recall those early days, when we set out on our journey to make a meaningful contribution to delivering Sustainable Development Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy. I feel that from our early brainstorming and proposal drafting meetings in 2016, our TEA platform has grown into something very special — and something that has become very dear to me.

Fast forward to the present, the numbers shared during the opening plenary speak for themselves: to date, TEA has supported over 1000 innovators, 300 business models nurtured, and millions of lives touched by the programme’s interventions. This is an incredible achievement and something that can be attributed to all involved in its delivery, from the dedicated team at the FCDO and the Carbon Trust to the countless partners and stakeholders delivering solutions on-the-ground.

TEA’s foundational research and capacity building group. Source: Mascha Moorlach

From His Excellency Omar Daair OBE to our own TEA-LP partners, the Forum brought together many voices and perspectives, each contributing to and amplifying the message of TEA. One theme stood out above all: the importance of embracing ambition and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Demilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, and Co-Chair of UN-Energy, delivered a visionary talk on decentralised renewable technologies, challenging us to think boldly and act decisively in delivering SDG 7.

For the TEA-LP, the TEA Forum was also a highlight, as 18 representatives from nine of our partners in Africa were present at the Forum. Among these were our partners at Busitema University, the Federal University of Technology Owerri, Moi University, Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Strathmore University, the University of Zimbabwe, the University of Energy and Natural Resources, the University of Nigeria/Nsukka, and the University of Rwanda. We were able to (re)connect at the Forum, strengthening our partnership with each conversation. Our very own TEA- LP partner, Dr. Emmanuel Ufiteyezu, presented at the opening plenary. We are extremely fortunate to have a network of such amazing and inspiring partners, all working together to make a difference in energy education and research.