CNR model



CNR was founded

The Compagnie Nationale du Rhône was founded by the extension of the Rhone law voted in 1921 and promulgated ten years later. This law provided a framework for the river’s development.


The Rhone concession

The State entrusted CNR with the exclusive concession of the Rhone for 75 years to develop and harness the river by carrying out three missions for the community: hydroelectricity production, navigation and irrigation.



The first structures

1935: CNR started works on Port de Lyon Edouard Herriot.

1938: The construction of the dam-hydropower plant of Génissiat began.

1938: CNR’s first achievement, Port de Lyon Edouard Herriot was inaugurated.

1946: The State nationalised the public electricity service and founded EDF. It nonetheless maintained the existence of CNR which focused on its mission of river development.

1948: The dam-hydropower plant of Génissiat was commissioned, at that time the largest and most modern dam in Europe. It was nicknamed the “French Niagara”.


The contractual period

A contractual framework was set up in which EDF operated the hydropower plants, marketed the production and kept the receipts. CNR built the plants on the Rhone (19 plants from 1948 to 1986) and was remunerated for its missions in the framework of flat rate sums negotiated with EDF.


The electricity market was opened up

The law on modernising and developing the public electricity service prepared the way for opening up the market.


CNR became an independent producer

CNR won back its status as a fully-fledged independent electricity producer.


The transfer of competences

A unique labour and industrial agreement was signed to organise the transfer of EDF’s competences as well as its personnel to CNR. More than 300 EDF employees joined CNR on 1 January 2006.


A new shareholder

CNR’s new articles of association and specifications were set out in a decree. Electrabel, a subsidiary of the Suez Group became a shareholder of CNR.



CN’Air was founded

The role of this subsidiary of CNR is to develop, invest in, produce and operate new renewable electricity production facilities: wind power, hydropower and solar power in France and elsewhere in Europe.


The Missions in the General Interest were launched

These missions, set out in five year plans, do not feature in the original specifications: they were proposed voluntarily by CNR to redistribute part of the wealth generated from the Rhone to the territories.


Innovation, Missions in the General Interest and asset development

CNR diversified into wind and solar power and worked to develop new renewable energies (hydrogen, marine currents) and electric mobility, while offering its knowhow in managing intermittent energies and engineering services to third parties. It has fulfilled 2 plans of the Missions in the General Interest and launched a third in 2014.

Focus on

Two visionaries paved the way for CNR

The foundations of CNR were laid by two politicians who instilled the culture that still drives the company 80 years after its inception: Léon Perrier and Édouard Herriot. Léon Perrier (1873-1948) was a Member of Parliament then Senator of Isère from 1910 to 1940. He was also the President of the Isère General Council. Edouard Herriot (1872-1957), Senator then Member of Parliament of Rhone, was above all Mayor of Lyon for more than fifty years. They were both strongly attached to developing the territory that they represented, and they were convinced of the potential of hydroelectricity.

Edouard Herriot

As early as 1918, Léon Perrier proposed to entrust the development of the Rhone to a single executive body in which all the local authorities would be stakeholders. As for Édouard Herriot, he drew up the development plan of the future CNR: the income generated from sales of hydroelectricity would be used to secure navigation on the Rhone and irrigate the farmland bordering it. Appointed in 1933, Léon Perrier was Chairman of CNR until his death, apart from the period under the Vichy regime which dismissed him from office.




Léon perrier


  • 80 years in the service of the territories

  • 19 hydropower plants and dams built on the Rhone