IDEA2024 Plenary Panels

Plenary Panel #1: District Energy for Sustainable Cities

The IDEA Opening Plenary Panel Discussion will feature insights from prominent executive leaders at the helm of IDEA member district energy systems in cities.  Topics will include investment and technology strategies, emerging policy drivers and supporting the growth in customer demands.  Hear first-hand from the principals shaping the future for more sustainable cities. 

Earl Collins, CEO, Cordia

Earl Collins has served as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cordia since July 2022. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Earl oversees Cordia's operations from its corporate headquarters, a strategic move catalyzed by the company's rebranding post a monumental $1.9 billion acquisition by KKR in October 2022.  
Earl brings a wealth of experience to his current position, having worked in various capacities across engineering, construction, operations, and maintenance for the power, industrial, and renewable energy sectors. His dedication and strategic leadership have been evident throughout his career. 
Prior to joining Cordia, Earl played a pivotal role in the growth of a key operating division of a Fortune 500 infrastructure engineering and construction company. Under his guidance, the division's revenue skyrocketed from $200 million to an impressive $2.5 billion through a combination of organic growth and strategic acquisitions.
Earl earned a Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering from Iowa State University in 1991 and has a distinguished military background, having earned an Officer commission through the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

Carlyle Coutinho, CEO, Enwave Energy Corporation

Carlyle Coutinho is the CEO of Enwave Energy Corporation. Carlyle began his career with Enwave in 2013 as Chief Financial Officer and has held a number of  executive roles across the North American platform. 

Prior to joining Enwave in 2013, Carlyle held progressively senior investment and operational positions in the private equity and debt investment industry in Canada and the United States. Carlyle began his career in public accounting with KPMG and Deloitte.  

Carlyle earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Wilfrid Laurier University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst charterholder. 

Luke Gaalswyk, CEO, Ever-Green Energy

Luke Gaalswyk was named chief executive officer of Ever-Green Energy in January 2024. He has over 16 years of experience in energy, operations, and engineering and is a veteran of the United States Air Force. Luke brings a wholistic approach to energy system advancement that pairs best available technologies with first-class operations to deliver exceptional services to Ever-Green Energy clients.   

Luke currently serves on the board of directors for the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and is a drill-status member of the Minnesota Air National Guard. Prior to joining Ever-Green, he served as the Midwest regional general manager at Clearway Community Energy where he was responsible for managing operations, engineering, and business development of Clearway’s district energy systems in Minneapolis and Omaha. He has a mechanical engineering degree from the United States Air Force Academy and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Dayton.

Kevin Hagerty, President and Deputy CEO, Vicinity Energy

Kevin currently serves as Vicinity’s President and Deputy CEO. He oversees the company's day-to-day business operations. His strategic vision and leadership are key drivers in Vicinity’s electrification transition and the delivery of eSteam™ across its 19 district energy systems. He works closely with Vicinity’s CEO, Bill DiCroce, to continue elevating Vicinity’s position as the leader in the decarbonization of district energy systems nationwide.
With over 20 years of experience in private utilities, Kevin brings a wealth of knowledge in utility operations, engineering, and commercial dealings. In his previous roles as Vicinity’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Technical Officer (CTO), he oversaw Operations, Information Technology (IT), Engineering, Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S), and technical teams.  Prior to Vicinity Energy, Kevin served in senior leadership positions at Veolia for nearly 10 years.
Kevin graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy with an education in Marine and Nuclear Engineering. He also achieved an MBA from Boston University.

Christina Ho, Vice President – Strategic Planning for Consolidated Edison of NY Inc

Christina Ho is Vice President – Strategic Planning for Consolidated Edison of NY Inc.  She is responsible for the team that monitors and analyzes market and technology trends, develops the strategic plan for the regulated utilities of CEI, as well as identifying opportunities to grow the business.
Over her 22 years in the utility business, Christina has had a number of progressive management and engineering assignments. As The Energy Manager at Con Edison’s Energy Control Center, she was responsible for control and real time dispatch of electric and steam generation resources in the Con Edison control area. As general manager in Steam Operations, she was responsible for business development, operations planning, customer relationship management and integrated long range strategy for the district steam business. She then joined O&R as Vice President, Customer Service in 2017 where she was responsible for all aspects of customer interactions including new business on-boarding for the electric and gas businesses, meter operations, billing and collections activities, call center activities, energy efficiency programs and customer technology systems management. In 2021 she rejoined Con Edison as Vice President of Steam Operations providing administrative, operational and management leadership for the day-to-day operations of the district steam business in Manhattan.
Ms. Ho holds an MS in Earth and Environmental Engineering from Columbia University as well as an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania. She has a Bachelor of Engineering in Chemical Engineering from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. 
She serves on the board of the International District Energy Association and the NYC Workforce Development Board.

Eric Miller, CEO, CenTrio

As CenTrio’s, Chief Executive Officer, Eric Miller brings 25 years of managerial, strategic, and financial experience in the electric power and utility industry to the organization. Eric is passionate about personal accountability and mutual respect and believes it leads to personal enrichment for employees and supports long-term shareholder value.  Eric joined CenTrio in January 2022 and previously served as the Chief Financial Officer for the company. 
Prior to CenTrio, Eric was the Chief Executive Officer of Recurve Energy Asset Management (“Recurve”) which was a private equity sponsored asset management company. At its peak, Recurve had $1.0 billion of investments under management through a 3,300 MW natural gas fired power generation portfolio. Previous to his time as CEO of Recurve, Eric was the Chief Financial Officer at both Recurve and MP2 Energy, held various finance and commercial roles at Reliant Energy and started his career in the Audit division of Arthur Andersen.
Eric is a CPA with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and a Master of Science in Finance from Texas A&M University.  He lives in the Woodlands, TX with his wife Christy and three boys.

Lisa Sparrow, CEO, Corix

Lisa is the President and CEO of the Corix, a leading district energy utility with operations across North America. She brings more than three decades of experience in the manufacturing, energy and infrastructure sectors at BP, General Motors and Corix.
As an active leader in the professional utilities community, Lisa has served as an appointee to the U.S. National Drinking Water Advisory Council, the USEPA Climate Ready Utilities Working Group, Vice President and President of the National Association of Water Companies, and the Water Research Foundation Board of Directors. Outside of the energy and water industry, she provides guidance as director on profit, non-profit and advisory boards. She is currently the Chair of the Business Council of British Columbia.
Lisa holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University and MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

Plenary Panel #2: Global Leaders Panel

Khalid Al Marzooqi, CEO, Tabreed

Khalid Al Marzooqi was officially announced as CEO of Tabreed on 17 May 2021, bringing with him a wealth of experience in the energy sector. His long and distinguished career has seen Al Marzooqi in senior roles at Dolphin Energy Limited, Dolphin Technical Services Division, the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport, Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA) and ADCO.
During his time as Chief Operating Officer-Downstream at Dolphin Energy, he was responsible for overall direction of Operations, Technical Services, and Business Support, ensuring uninterrupted gas supply to customers in the UAE and Oman. As SVP of its Technical Services Division, he provided mid- to long term solutions addressing safety, operability, reliability, projects expansion and integrity issues for the company’s assets in the UAE and Qatar.
During 2008-2009, Al Marzooqi worked for the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport. In his capacity as Executive Manager, he was responsible for the public transport section which designed, developed, and launched the current Abu Dhabi bus system. Earlier in his career, he spent nine years at ADEWA, where he was senior maintenance manager for two power/desalination plants in the western region of the emirate. While at ADCO between 1992 and 1995, he was a petroleum engineer with responsibilities for drilling, wire line and production. 
Al Marzooqi holds two majors in Chemical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering. In 2023 he was named as one of the Middle East’s Top CEOs by Forbes, in its list of the region’s 100 most influential company leaders.

Ahmad Bin Shafar, CEO, Empower

Ahmad Bin Shafar has been serving as the Chief Executive Officer of Empower since its inception. Ahmad brings over 28 years of experience in senior management positions including eight years with Standard Chartered Bank in Corporate and Retail Banking, Finance, Marketing and Customer Relations. As Chief Executive Officer, Ahmad provides strategic direction and, under his leadership, Empower has become the World’s Largest District Cooling Services provider, from a capacity perspective, within a short span of a decade.
Ahmad also serves as the Chairman of the board of directors of ELIPS since 2007, a subsidiary of Empower and a world leader in pre-insulated pipe systems.

Ahmad is a Special Advisor on district cooling to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for it’s global ‘District Energy in Cities initiative’,

Ahmad has been serving as a member of the board of the International District Energy Association, since 2013, as Executive Chairman of Bin Shafar Holding, since 2012, as Chairman of the Association of District Cooling Operators, headquartered in Dubai since 2020, and as a member of the board of the Dubai Sports Council, from 2009 to 2022.
Ahmad has been a key speaker, lecturer, and panelist at several international events, including industry-specific conferences and trade shows organized by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and International District Energy Association (IDEA).
Ahmad is a member of the Cranfield Management Association, IMD International, the ASHRAE and IDEA. Ahmad holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Management from California State University, Los Angeles, USA.

Joan Kowal, Client Manager, Energy & Power – Americas, Jacobs

Joan is a Client Growth Manager for Jacobs, Energy and Power Americas, focused on the District Energy market for higher education, cities and municipals, airports and healthcare.  She was previously with NextEra Energy Resources, in Business Development for their Distributed Generation group, focused on university utility upgrade and development opportunities as well as other behind the meter generation solutions. 
Prior to NextEra, Joan spent 15 years on the client side managing energy and utilities for Emory University as well as the University System of Maryland. She joined UMD to manage their third-party contract for the University’s 25 MW combined heat and power plant.  She was also instrumental in procuring over 75 MW of utility-scale wind and solar through long term power purchase agreements for the benefit of the University System and State of MD.  Prior to her Higher Education roles, she was actively involved in the wholesale deregulated energy markets of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. 
Joan currently serves on the International District Energy Association Executive Board of Directors and has been active in the association for many years.  She is a Mechanical Engineer from Bucknell University, a Certified Energy Manager and received her Professional Engineers License from the State of Georgia.  

Werner Lutsch, Managing Director and CEO, AGFW

Werner is Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of AGFW, the German Energy Efficiency Association for District Heating, Cooling and CHP in Frankfurt, Germany which he joined in 2003. AGFW reunites over 700 district energy suppliers and industrial operators of this industry in Germany and represents over 95% of the heat load connected to German district heating systems – the largest scale in Western Europe.

He is also Member of the Board of Euroheat&Power, Brussels, the international association representing the District Heating and Cooling (DHC) and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) sector in Europe and beyond. Werner has over 35 years of experience in energy and process management mainly for the optimization of power plants and energy processes. He has also expertise in business development for Operation, Maintenance & Management (OM&M) of thermal and hydro power plants as well as systems for transmission and distribution.

His prior experience includes service as Consultant and Senior Vice President/Executive of a subsidiary of the FICHTNER Group, Germany, General Manager with VA TECH, Austria and Managing Director/CEO at communa systems, Germany. Werner has a M.Sc. in Production Engineering from the University of Applied Science, Technology and Economics Rosenheim, Germany and a General Manager Degree from the Hernstein Institute Vienna, Austria. He is the author of numerous technical papers and articles on energy- and environmental topics and frequent speaker at national and international conferences.

Gabriele Pesce, Innovation & Sustainable Finance Director, Euroheat & Power

Gabriele joined Euroheat & Power on 1 June 2018 and in January 2022 he was promoted to Director of Innovation & Sustainable Finance. He holds a Master’s degree in international relations and a postgraduate degree in diplomatic studies.

 He is specialised in project management with vast experience in the preparation, design and management of EU projects and tenders within different financing programmes. At EHP, Gabriele co-leads the DHC+ Platform. He coordinates the management of the organisation’s EU projects portfolio and the management of its financial resources. He leads the activities related to funding and grants for EHP and DHC+ members and everything related to the access-to-finance topic.

He supports the policy team in the analysis of European legislation and mechanisms in the fields of sustainable and infrastructure finance relevant to district heating and cooling.

Hilda Cristina Mariaca Orozco, Coordinator DE Projects, Ministry of Environment, Colombia

Cristina is a mechanical and refrigeration engineer, specialist in Integrated Environmental Management,and Master in Energy and Development, with experience for more than ten years in formulation, coordination and implementation of strategies and projects in the framework of the Montreal protocol and climate change mitigation. 

She is responsible for the supervision, guidance and implementation of international cooperation project activities with the
management of relevant national and sub-national government stakeholders. Experience negotiating programs and mobilizing funds. With specific experience in the technical areas of industrial and commercial cooling and air conditioning.

She leads the District-energy project in Colombia, responsible for the technical supervision and guidance on all matters related to stakeholders coordination to promote District energy in Colombia. Senior advisor to implement district energy as an ozone-friendly refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) solution with climate change mitigation and energy transition and efficiency criteria. Securing and managing key partnerships with relevant public and private stakeholders at national and sub-national level, and for ensuring that all partners and institutional stakeholders are kept involved and informed as appropriate, in order to ensure optimum cooperation.