by Chris Hammond
Danny and Maurice Tuff of Blue Line Innovations.
By Wade Kearley
North Americans expect energy on demand. But increasing
consumption and a lack of affordable, clean new energy sources
threaten those expectations. This new reality was underscored
by the Aug. 14 blackout that left 50 million people in the
dark. As part of the response to that crisis, a major electrical
utility in Ontario is ready to launch a demonstration project
with a Newfoundland-based company that has strong roots
Maurice Tuff, B.Eng.’01, and brother Daniel Tuff,
BA’97, BBA’01, are the brains behind Blue Line
Innovations, the company that developed the PowerCost Meter
(PCM), a direct feedback device for domestic energy consumers.
Maurice Tuff has studied energy usage since high school.
“One pattern that’s interesting to note from
the 8/14 blackout is how quickly domestic energy use returned
to pre-blackout levels,” he said. “What that
means is that with no meaningful and timely feedback –
and a bill at the end of the month just doesn’t cut
it – homeowners returned to their old habits. But
it doesn’t have to be that way.”
With no meaningful and timely feedback,
homeowners returned to their old habits.
He points to a 1993 Ontario Hydro study which
demonstrates that when homeowners get real-time feedback
on the electricity their home is consuming, they can cut
up to 20 per cent off their bill – without sacrificing
lifestyle. “Adopted on a broad scale, real-time feedback
has broad and positive implications for all sectors of the
electrical energy industry.”
That’s where the PCM comes in. It includes an easily
affixable reader for the outside electric meter and an in-house
display unit the size of a desktop clock. It displays in
real time how much electricity a home is using. PCM's smart
technology also assesses the home's energy use patterns
and calculates energy costs based on those values. It also
displays equivalent CO2 emissions and kWh.
With the prototype complete, and supported by the National
Research Council of Canada and ACOA, Blue Line Innovations
has launched a marketing initiative that is attracting the
interest of major electrical utilities in Ontario, Ireland,
England and Germany. Natural Resources Canada has thrown
open the doors to them in Ottawa and the Ontario Ministry
of Energy is very interested in the product. They’ve
also caught the eye of the David Suzuki Foundation.
Even as they plan to expand off-campus, both Maurice and
Danny Tuff are grateful for the mentoring and technical
assistance they received at Memorial. The Faculty of Engineering
and Applied Science has been a strong supporter. “Dr.
Ray Gosine and Dr. [Tariq] Iqbal really helped to facilitate
our research and development,” said Maurice Tuff.
Hubert W. Kelly chair Dr. Bob Richards in Youth-Focused
Technological Entrepreneurship was also important to them.
“He was always available. And no matter what the problem
he had a positive attitude,” said Danny Tuff. Tom
Clift, associate dean, academic programs, is on their thank-you
list too. All this support, plus years of late nights and
early mornings, has finally put these young innovators and
their first product on the map.
“One of the most exciting developments to date came
in early February when we met with a major utility in Ontario.
They’re preparing now to contract with us to launch
a major demonstration project there,” said Danny Tuff.
Blue Line also has a deal with Newfoundland Power and Newfoundland
and Labrador Hydro to conduct a smaller scale demonstration
project here. Blue Line’s marketing representative
is in Europe for February. And he’s calling with good
news. “We’ve had one meeting with the largest
investor-held utility in Britain and they want more details
about the terms of a contract for a demonstration project
There are 110 million households in North America alone
that could use this product says Maurice Tuff. “We’re
convinced that consumers’ increased awareness of the
need to conserve energy, plus the direct savings that people
will see with the PowerCost Meter, gives us the potential
to attract a strong market share.”
For more information, check out, www.bluelineinnovations.com.