The IDEA Team

Our dedicated team works hard to serve our members' needs and advance the mission of the district energy industry. Please feel free to contact us if we can assist you in any way. 

Robert P. Thornton
President & CEO

Rob Thornton is President and Chief Executive Officer of the International District Energy Association (IDEA).  In his primary role as advocate for the district energy industry, he represents the interests of over 2000 IDEA members from 25 countries, and has briefed the President of the United States and members of his Cabinet, members of the US Senate and House of Representatives and staff, senior leadership at the US Departments of Energy, EPA and Commerce, and the Ministries of Energy and Environment in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia as well as countless state, provincial and local government agencies across North America.   

During 29 years in the district energy industry, Mr. Thornton has held executive management roles in the launch and growth of new district energy systems in three different US cities with responsibility for plant site selection, franchise negotiations, permitting and regulatory approvals, financing, system construction and commissioning, marketing and business development, with particular focus on revenue generation and profitability.  Earlier in his career, Mr. Thornton worked in business development with solar and geothermal energy companies and in a program role at the US Department of Energy Region One office.

Mr. Thornton currently represents the USA on the International Energy Agency (IEA) District Heating and Cooling Implementing Agreement and IEA CHP Collaborative.  He is a founding member of the Microgrid Resources Coalition (MRC) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) District Energy in Cities Initiative and is actively involved in numerous national energy and environmental industry associations including the US Green Buildings Council.  He currently serves on the Advisory Board for the City Planning and Urban Affairs Program at Boston University.  Previously, Mr. Thornton served on the Executive Committee of Greater Hartford Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA.

Throughout his career, Mr. Thornton has worked closely with the US Department of Energy and US Environmental Protection Agency in support of clean energy policies and programs.  He is a frequent collaborator with other national and regional industry associations and partner organizations.  Mr. Thornton is publisher of District Energy magazine, oversees the organization and implementation of 3-5 global conferences annually and has published numerous articles and white papers on district energy and CHP policy.

Mr. Thornton has been recognized with the IDEA Norm Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award, Crain's Cleveland 40 under 40 Award and the CHP Champion Award from the USCHPA and NECHPI.  Before his graduation from Tufts University, Mr. Thornton performed research on climate change for the Energy Policy Information Institute.  He is known as a pretty ardent sports fan and currently resides in Massachusetts with his family.

Anna Chittum
Manager of Strategic Initiatives

Anna develops and strengthens partnerships and resources that help cities, states, and regions more fully understand and enjoy the benefits of district energy and CHP. She researches and writes about best practices in policy development, regulatory approaches, and utility system governance models as they pertain to district energy, CHP, and community energy planning.

Anna was previously a Fulbright Fellow and a visiting researcher with Aalborg University's Sustainable Energy Planning Research Group in Denmark. Her research there focused on Danish heat planning and the use of CHP to balance intermittent renewable energy resources.

Anna's recent areas of published research include: the role of CHP in helping states comply with the Clean Power Plan, local energy planning practices in Denmark, energy resource planning in the United States, the benefits of CHP to utilities, and local policy and regulatory support for district energy systems. In addition to her work for IDEA, Anna is a Visiting Fellow with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), and the founder of Gridkraft, a small energy policy consultancy.

She holds a master of science degree in urban planning from Columbia University and a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Gonzaga University.

Paige Davis

Paige joined IDEA in 2015 as an Analyst. Her work includes collecting, analyzing, and reporting on district industry data and supporting statistical outreach projects. She graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in Environmental Analysis and Policy and a B.A. in Economics.



Joel Greene
General Counsel

Joel L. Greene serves as General Counsel to IDEA. Joel has been an active member of IDEA since 1994 and served as IDEA chair in 2003-2004. He is a member of the law firm Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, PLC, which has offices in Washington, D.C., and Phoenix and Peoria, Arizona, and offers a full spectrum of legal and consulting services in energy and utility law. Joel has been in private practice in the Washington, D.C. area since 1974, assisting clients in energy regulatory matters, legal strategic planning, contract negotiations and advocacy before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, US Department of Transportation (PHMSA), state commissions and the courts. Joel holds a J.D. from the National Law Center of the George Washington University.

Cheryl Jacques
Director of Operations

Cheryl is IDEA's Director of Operations. She works with member services, including conference registration services, membership dues, mailing lists and circulation, as well as managing all accounts payable, accounts receivable, filings and notices.  Prior to joining IDEA in September of 2009, Cheryl worked as an Office Manager in the real estate industry and a Creative Services Production Manager in the high-tech industry.

Tanya Kozel
Director of Sales

Tanya has been a key member of the IDEA staff for fourteen years. Her responsibilities as director of sales & marketing for the last 7 years include management of IDEA’s three annual trade shows, sponsorship recruitment and advertising sales. Previously, she applied her talents to a growing range of tasks, including administrative assistant, program manager, and program director. Kozel brings substantial industry experience to IDEA. She also worked for three years with an IDEA member organization as director of sales and marketing and exhibited at IDEA trade shows.

Peter Myers
Executive Editor, District Energy magazine

Peter Myers is the executive editor of IDEA's quarterly District Energy magazine. His responsibilities include heading up the editorial committee of industry experts who determine the magazine's editorial calendar and review all articles prior to publication. Since 2005 he has also served IDEA as a contributing writer and video producer. A former public television executive, his recent documentaries have been widely viewed on public TV throughout Minnesota. He currently provides public relations and production services to a variety of clients. He has been active on many nonprofit boards including Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, Minnesota Zoo and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Leonard A. Phillips
Director of Business Development

Len has been with IDEA since May, 2008 with the primary mission of supporting membership growth and also serves as webmaster. He has held senior marketing communications posts for a number of high-tech organizations and is also an accomplished technical author and editor. He covered energy and other issues as a member of the Editorial Board of M.I.T. Technology Review and Laser Focus magazines.

An elected Water Commissioner in his home town of Acton, Mass. since 1982, he's been directly involved in the planning, development, treatment and maintenance of aquifer source potable water resources and distribution systems. 

He has taught general science at the secondary school level and holds a master's degree in geology from Brooklyn College, CUNY. He rides a FLHPI Harley-Davidson motorcycle, primarily for fuel efficiency, he claims.

Anne Picillo
Conference and Meeting Planner

Anne's responsibilities include site selection, contract negotiation and meeting management for events held around the globe. President of Custom Made Meetings, she is a Certified Meeting Planner (CMP), a member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Health Care Businesswoman's Association (HBA) and New England Society of Association Executives (NESAE). Previously she was Assistant Vice President in charge of bank operations for National Bank & Trust Company in Scarsdale, N.Y.

Laxmi Rao
Director of International Programs

Laxmi is a Director at IDEA since 2005. She serves in a technical role to support District Energy and CHP initiatives, projects and education and outreach efforts. Her main areas of focus include developing the Technical Program for IDEA's conferences and workshops, extending interest and membership in District Energy in the US and internationally, and supporting the DOE's Clean Energy Application Centers. Laxmi also manages grants and the development of tools to support District Energy and CHP.

She has built over 30 years of experience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fields of CHP, District Energy, metering and controls and project management.  She has also worked on renewable energy, water conservation and Green IT projects, and serves on MIT's Campus Energy Task Force. Laxmi has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and an MBA.

Emily Riskalla
Program Manager

Emily joined IDEA in 2016 as a program manager. In addition to industry outreach and member interaction, her responsibilities include business management, communication and advocacy, conference planning and implementation, and energy and environmental policy. She has multiple years of experience in project management and contract administration. She holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Connecticut. Go Huskies!

Mark Spurr
Legislative Director

Mark Spurr is legislative director of IDEA, responsible for developing and advocating energy and environmental legislation, policies, regulations and programs to encourage the development and expansion of district energy systems. He also is president of FVB Energy Inc., a U.S. consulting firm specializing in district energy and CHP business development, engineering and marketing, with offices in Minneapolis, Minn., and Seattle, Wash. FVB also has offices in Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver, Canada; and in Stockholm, Västerås and other cities in Sweden. For many years Mark has represented the United States on the executive committee of the International Energy Agency Implementing Agreement on District Heating and Cooling, including the Integration of CHP.  Mark has over 30 years of consulting experience serving private companies, municipalities, colleges, universities and other owners and operators of district energy systems, as well as buyers and sellers of district energy assets.

International District Energy Association

24 Lyman Street - Suite 230

Westborough, MA 01581

Tel: 508-366-9339 Fax: 508-366-0019

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