from the September 2011 issue

GE backs Israeli company that turns wastewater into electricity

General Electric Co. is reinforcing its commitment to its "Ecomagination" strategy by joining two major players in the energy market to back an Israeli company that produces electricity from wastewater, a move that's expected to help the company tap an estimated $10 billion market.

The Fairfield-based company has teamed with NRG Energy and ConocoPhillips to form Energy Technology Ventures to provide capital to Emefcy Ltd., which uses a bacteria in an electrogenic bioreactor to treat wastewater and produce power.

Emefcy "is definitely one of the leaders. Their technology is unique," said Andy Katell, spokesman for GE Energy Financial Services in Stamford.

An investment figure was not disclosed. The primary initial applications are for wastewater treatment in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, with total market potential of $10 billion a year, according to GE.

Conventional wastewater treatment uses 2 percent of global power capacity (80,000 megawatts and 57 million tons per year of carbon dioxide) costing $40 billion.

Rather than using conventional energy-intensive aerobic processes or methane-producing anaerobic digestion to treat wastewater, Emefcy harvests renewable energy directly from the wastewater and feeds it to the power grid.

"We will use Energy Technology Ventures' investment to continue development of our technology into full-scale commercial implementation by the end of this year for municipal and industrial wastewater treatment," said Etyan Levy, Emefcy's chief executive officer. "All told, wastewater treatment is a $100 billion industry, and our technology can significantly reduce the economic and environmental costs."

Pond Venture Partners, Plan B Ventures and Israel Cleantech Ventures joined energy Technology Ventures in the funding round.

James Laughlin, editor of Tulsa-based Water World magazine, serving the wastewater industry, was not surprised to hear about the Emefcy project. "Israel is very active in research related to water -- all things water, and GE has made an active commitment to the water market. It seems like a nice fit," he said.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report September 2011

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