An Israeli company that uses bacteria to create energy used to treat wastewater has been named a New Energy Pioneer by Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance (BNEF) information service. Caesarea-based Emefcy’s “bio-reactor” (EBR) technology was chosen by the service because it “changes the economics of wastewater treatment by generating instead of consuming energy,” BNEF said. According to Emefcy, external power use in wastewater treatment plants can be lowered by as much as 95 percent. Emefcy was the only Israeli company honored by BNEF as one of its “leaders in the clean energy revolution.”

Emefcy’s Sabre (Spiral Aerobic Biofilm Reactor) treatment system allows wastewater treatment facilities to produce electricity. The heart of the system is Emefcy’s EBR (Electrogenic Bioreactor), which turns the organic matter in the water into the biological building blocks of what is essentially a bio-energy power plant. The water emerges clean and ready for reuse, while the electricity generated can be used to power the treatment plant itself, or for carbon credits from the local power company. Emefcy says that the system will pay for itself in five years, turning the treatment plant from power-guzzler to power producer.

Emefcy, established in 2007, is backed by, among others, an investor consortium that includes GE, NRG Energy and ConocoPhillips, called Energy Technology Ventures. According to the company, the potential savings from wide usage of its system in wastewater treatment plants around the world could be as much as $40 billion annually — the amount it costs to produce the 80,000 megawatt of power, the cost of the 2% of the world’s annual electricity supply needed to run the plants. In a statement, Eytan Levy, CEO and Co-Founder of Emefcyy, said that “this recognition validates our company’s vision and leadership providing energy efficient solutions for wastewater treatment. This win arrives at a time when we are about to roll out our first product enhancing our worldwide recognition.”

Emefcy isn’t the only Israeli start-up using water to generate power. Hydrospin, based in Kibbutz Lavi in northern Israel, has designed a device that acts like a miniature hydroelectric power station inside a water pipe. The device generates electricity based on the flow of water through the pipes, and the energy generated is used to supply power to components of “smart water” systems, such as monitors, probes, and GPRS devices that check information on unusual water flow, leaks, or other problems. By generating the power needed to run these devices, Hydrospin eliminates the need to change their batteries every few months.

According to HydroSpin CEO Gabby Czertok, the system can generate one to five watts of electricity, which is “enough to power a smart water network system, sending the data to a server every few minutes, instead of once a day, as most systems do.”

Last year, Hydrospin was chosen by Israel’s Calcalist business daily for its list of the five most promising cleantech companies in Israel. And, it was recently chosen as one of the 45 most important Israeli inventions of all time by the Bloomfield Science Museum. According to Czertok, the market for smart water systems will be over $20 billion by 2020, and Hydrospin “is riding a wave of something major that is happening in the world with our device.”