The founder of the Vineyard Energy Project, Kate Warner, is preparing to step down as director as the VEP shifts its focus from primarily education and advocacy to practical implementation of energy saving measures.

After five years running the nonprofit almost single-handedly, Ms. Warner, who is also an architect and a resident of West Tisbury, said she believes the time has come for fresh leadership to take the organization in a new direction, which will likely see the VEP acting as a kind of project manager for Vineyard residents intent on reducing their energy consumption.

“I have pushed this ball for a long time primarily by myself,” said Ms. Warner. “With the help of Nan Doty,” she added. She continued:

“I was the founder, the ideas person, but there comes a time when that person needs to step aside a little bit and fresh blood come in, maybe somebody who’s better at working with other people or better at marketing or whatever.”

She said the board — newly constituted and revitalized late last year — is not yet actively looking for her replacement, until it settles more precisely on the new direction of the organization, and thus the skills required of a new director.

But both Ms. Warner and the board, after reviewing the organization’s past achievements, are certain that it needs to refocus.

“When the VEP started, the central part of what we were doing was education on climate change, peak oil, that sort of thing,” she said.

“Now, I think, the world has changed. People understand the challenge now; we felt it was time to move more into solutions. Exactly how we go about that is what the board is trying to figure out now.”

Most active in that consideration is new board chairman Paul Pimentel, an Island resident who is the chief engineer with a $250 million company which specializes in energy use reduction for corporate clients.

Said Mr. Pimentel: “We’re trying to revitalize the mission of the Vineyard Energy project, not by taking away from what it’s doing now in advocacy information and educational support, but by adding an element of implementation to it.

“We’re not talking about becoming contractors, but we can do a lot in terms of pulling together sources of grant money, perhaps helping with financing, making sure that contractors in the community know how to do this stuff,” he said.

He called it arranging, but in essence it would amount to project managing for Island residents intent on taking action to reduce their energy use.

“It’s something Kate does now on occasions, advising people who might want to put in a solar panel or something, but on a bigger more organized scale.

“We would help people sort out what the market looks like, what’s a good choice how to evaluate it, because most people don’t have a clue.

“For example, suppose you already had an energy audit done by the Cape Light Compact. We’d start with that, and say ‘insulation, great idea; here are three contractors, here are the prices, here’s how we are going to specify the job’.

“We would supervise the job to make sure it gets done right, provide all the technical assistance the customer might need. Call it project management, integrating, arranging — there are lots of different fuzzy words to describe it.”

Asked if this means the VEP might ultimately operate a storefront service in energy advice, Mr. Pimentel was unsure, but was definite about visibility: “You’ll see us more in up-front marketing,” he said.

Importantly, the VEP is also looking at innovative ways to help people finance the initial costs of becoming more energy efficient.

“If they put in new insulation or a new heating system, people are going to save money over time. Well, you can use that saving to help finance the investment,” Mr. Pimentel said.

He suggested it might be possible to actually persuade energy supply companies to provide the capital for their customers to make efficiencies, then recoup the costs out of the customers’ energy savings.

Ms. Warner also sees a role for the VEP as the organization to convene and coordinate the implementation of measures foreshadowed in the Island Plan, produced by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

“The Vineyard Energy project, I think, is the most logical organization to get going on that energy stuff. We are the only nonprofit on the Island whose sole mission is energy,” she said, adding:

“Paul Pimentel was instrumental in the development of the energy part of the Island plan, and he’s now our chairman and he has 40 years’ experience in the business.

“The VEP could serve as a convenor to get the various parties together who are stakeholders in the energy world of Martha’s Vineyard, whether it be fuel suppliers or planning boards or the MVC or selectmen.”

It all sounds very ambitious; the question is who is going to make it all happen, with Ms. Warner planning to step back and Mr. Pimentel working in what spare time he has from his job as an engineer.

For his part, Mr. Pimentel still hopes to persuade Ms. Warner to stay in the director’s job.

“I think Kate’s a tremendous asset to this Island. We’re very lucky to have had her. I’m amazed at what she’s been able to do over the past five years with almost nothing.

“We’re hoping we can keep her and support her in a way she feels she’s been appreciated.

But Ms. Warner seems equally determined to step back.

“I’m trained as an architect I have a lot of experience with building and I would like to keep on working on how we make buildings more efficient,” she said.

“But I’ve done this for a long time primarily by myself.

“I think of this image of cyclists, riding in a line, and every so often the front person pulls to the back and the next person starts pulling.

“I keep thinking of that image. I want to be involved in this; it means a tremendous amount to me and it’s not going to be easy to let go of something I personally founded,” Ms. Warner said.

“But I think it’s going to be successful, it’s time for someone else to take the lead.’