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GE, NRG, ConocoPhillips invest in Israeli wastewater startup

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Energy Technology Ventures will invest in Emefcy, an Israeli company that specializes in generating electricity from wastewater treatment.

Energy Technology Ventures, a joint venture by GE, NRG Energy and ConocoPhillips, announced on Tuesday that it will make an unspecified investment in Emefcy, a three-year-old Israeli company that specializes in generating electricity from wastewater treatment.

The investment is the venture's first outside the United States, and will be used by the company to scale its tech for municipal and industrial applications. ETV was joined by Pond Venture Partners, Plan B Ventures and Israel Cleantech Ventures.

Emefcy's technology uses an electrogenic bioreactor (filled with naturally occurring bacteria) to treat wastewater. The organic material in the leftover waste can be used to produce power and thus treat water.

Interest in the firm stems from the fact that conventional wastewater treatment using aerobic or anaerobic digestion is a very expensive, energy-intensive and carbon-intensive process. Emefcy's tech turns this on its head, and leaves room for the operator to put power back on the grid.

Conventional wastewater treatment uses 2 percent of global power capacity and costs $40 billion per year, according to the companies.

Initial applications for the technology is to treat wastewater in the food and beverage, pharmaceutical and chemical industries. The companies estimate the annual market potential for these applications to be $10 billion; wastewater treatment is a $100 billion industry.

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Andrew Nusca

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Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure