Roger Duncan (1947- ) is a former City of Austin City Council member and retired general manager of Austin Energy, the ninth-largest municipally owned electric utility in the United States. Duncan is widely regarded as the architect of Austin’s nationally known and award-winning renewable and energy-efficiency programs. He was recognized in 2005 by BusinessWeek magazine as one of the decade's 20 top leaders in the world in efforts to reduce gases that cause global warming for his work to make Austin a model for supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy. He also was campaign coordinator for a successful national grassroots program created in 2006 to encourage automakers to build plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. He has been appointed to numerous national organizations relating to energy and energy use and has been a frequent speaker on energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainability at local, state and national conferences.
Life and Career
Roger Duncan was born and grew up in Port Neches, Texas. He graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1975 with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in philosophy. He worked on the City Council campaign of Margaret Hofmann in 1975 and became her council aide when she won election. During that period he took an interest in the South Texas Project nuclear plant in which Austin is a partner, and became a vocal opponent of the project. He helped lead two unsuccessful citizen campaigns to get Austin out of the project. This endeared him to community and environmental activists, but put him at odds with many business leaders who supported the nuclear plant. Duncan also worked as a political consultant, helping to manage political campaigns around the state.
Duncan won a seat on the Austin City Council in 1981 and was re-elected in 1983, with strong support from community activists and despite opposition from the business community. In 1983, he married Jo Clifton, a journalist, attorney and municipal court judge.
During his tenure on the City Council Duncan became a leading advocate in the city for promoting policies supporting energy efficiency and environmental protection. This included a successful effort by the city electric system to save enough energy to avoid building a power plant.
After deciding against running for a third council term, Duncan worked for four years as the general administrator of College Houses Inc., a student housing cooperative. In 1989 he was named assistant director for a new City of Austin environmental department, and in 1996 became director of that department. Duncan moved over to the city electric utility, Austin Energy, in 1998 as vice president in charge of conservation, renewables and environmental policy. He was promoted to deputy general manager for distributed energy services in 2004 and was named general manager in February 2008 before retiring in early 2010.
During his more than two decades with the City of Austin Duncan played a key role in shaping Austin’s energy and environmental policies and in gaining Austin national attention for its efforts advancing energy efficiency and renewable energy, including the city’s award-winning GreenChoice and green-building programs. While his work earned him awards and praise from renewable energy advocates, he had a number of detractors concerned about the cost and reliability of renewable energy alternatives. Some of the most vocal critics of Duncan’s ideas and efforts were the high-tech chip-making industries concerned about their current and future energy costs in a very competitive industry.
His plan to provide more than half of Austin's electrical energy from renewable energy and efficiency by 2020 was adopted by the Austin City Council on Earth Day 2010.
Professional and Civic Work
- 2009-2010 - Alliance to Save Energy http://ase.org/, Board of Directors
- 2009-2010 - American Solar Energy Society, Board of Trustees
- 2005-2010 - Electric Drive Transportation Association, Board of Directors
- 2006 – Plug-in Partners, Campaign Coordinator
- 2001-2010 - Environmental and Energy Study Institute http://www.eesi.org/, Board of Directors
- 1998-2008 - National Urban Consortium Energy Task Force, Chair
- 1993-1995 - State of Texas Sustainable Energy Development Council, Member
- 1991-1992 - State of Texas Energy Policy Partnership, Chair, Energy Efficiency Committee
- 1985-1989 - City of Austin Resource Management Commission, Chair
- 1985-1989 - Texas Consumer Association, Board of Directors
- 1986-1987 - Texans for Aquifer Protection, Chair
- 1983-1985 - National League of Cities, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Member
"Austin Energy: A green pioneer" Energy Digital, April 30, 2009 http://www.energydigital.com/Austin-Energy--A-green-pioneer_23153.aspx
"City's electric utility chief to retire," All Business, http://www.allbusiness.com/government/government-bodies-offices-regional/13169802
“Battling Global Warming,” BusinessWeek, Dec. 12, 2005, http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/toc/05_50/B39630550carbon.htm
“Roger Duncan: High power, low-profile leader of Austin Energy,” The Good Life Magazine, July 2008 http://www.goodlifemag.com/images/stories/goodlife_archives/2008/07-08/07-08_austin-energy-roger-duncan.pdf
“Roger Duncan’s Night Visions,” Austin Chronicle, Oct. 24, 2008 http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid:693617
Alliance to Save Energy News, January 2009 http://ase.org/content/news/detail/5319
“Public Citizen Honors Roger Duncan on His Retirement” Public Citizen of Texas, Oct. 7, 2009 http://texasvox.org/2009/10/07/public-citizen-salutes-roger-duncan-on-his-retirement/
“Austin Energy chief Duncan to step down,” Austin Business Journal, Oct. 7, 2009 http://austin.bizjournals.com/austin/stories/2009/10/05/daily23.html
“ACEEE Names Four Champions of Energy Efficiency,” National Association of Energy Service Company Industry News, Aug. 20, 2008 http://www.naesco.org/news/industry/news.aspx?NewsID=38
“In the heart of Texas, drumbeat for green,” Chicago Tribune, Sept. 28, 2007 http://www.chicagotribune.com/services/newspaper/eedition/chi-austin_green_wittsep28,0,4963994.story
“Cities on the front lines,” The American Prospect, April 13, 2009 http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=cities_on_the_front_lines
“Energy plan comes to City Council as Legislature plans review,” Austin American-Statesman, Jan. 22, 2010 http://m.statesman.com/statesman/db_42779/contentdetail.htm;jsessionid=A27B301FE7800FF8DD56CF60553C688B?contentguid=nL1Dlk9j&storycount=322&detailindex=1&pn=1&ps=10&full=true
“Plug-in Partners urge Congress to convert postal fleet to plug-in hybrids,” CalCars, May 5, 2006 http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/381.html
“TH Interview: Roger Duncan, Plug-in Partners,” Treehugger, Nov. 23, 2006 http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/11/plugin_partners_1.php
“On the Road to Smart Grid,” New York Times, Dec. 8, 2008 http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/08/on-the-road-to-a-smart-grid/
“Saving Energy Starts at Home,” National Geographic, March 2009 http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/03/energy-conservation/miller-text.html
"In Quest for Cleaner Energy, Texas City Touts Plug-In Car,” The Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2007. http://zfacts.com/p/734.html