Between the departments of Isère and Ain, the Rhônergia project of the Compagnie Nationale du Rhône (CNR) aims to create a new dam with a hydroelectric power station on the river between Lyon and the Upper Rhône. Issues, presentation and opposition to Rhônergia.

Hydroelectric dam and hydroelectric power station

The Rhônergia project on the Rhône

In 2022, when the concession of the Compagnie Nationale du Rhône (CNR) was extended, the concession area was extended to include the downstream section of the Sault-Brénaz in the Ain department.

It was in this part of the river that the French government decided to carry out a feasibility study for the construction of a 20th hydroelectric power station on the Rhône, near the riverside towns of Loyettes and Saint-Romain-de-Jalionas.

Here is the study area and a map showing the location of the towns and villages concerned:

  • Rhônergia study scope
Scope of study
Source: CNR
  • Location of Loyettes in Ain and Saint-Romain-de-Jalionas in Isère :

The Rhônergia project is currently in the study phase, and its development will depend on the results of public consultations and environmental studies.

Advantages of the Rhônergia project

The Rhônergia project offers a number of energy and economic advantages.

On the one hand, it will increase the production of renewable energy in France, thereby contributing to the country’s energy transition objectives.

With an output of 15.3 TWh* in 2021 from hydropower (Rhône and non-Rhône), this new dam is in line with CNR’s objective of maintaining hydroelectric power generation, in the face of a 30% reduction in the river’s flow by 2060. It would also contribute to achieving the 30% renewable energy target by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050, two objectives of the PPE* (Multiannual Energy Programmes).

It will also generate economic spin-offs for the regions concerned, particularly in terms of direct and indirect employment: construction of the dam, power generation, maintenance, etc.

In terms of figures, this new hydroelectric power station on the Rhône is expected to produce 140 GWh* per year from a capacity of 40 MW*, equivalent to the electricity consumption, excluding heating, of a town with a population of 60,000.

  • Presentation of the project :
Link

Comprehensive public consultation

This is a participatory democracy procedure organised upstream of a project, under the aegis of the National Commission for Public Debate(CNDP*). The aim is to identify the impact of the project on the environment, quality of life and economic activity in the area concerned. It gives everyone the opportunity to obtain information, ask questions, make suggestions and discuss the issues.

Prior public consultation on the Rhônergia project began on 1 December 2023, for a statutory period of 3 months, until 29 February 2024, in parallel with the initial studies.

To find out more and take part in the consultation process, here are a few links:

  • What is public consultation? (French)
  • Documents available for consultation (French)
  • Videos and replays (French)
  • Public meetings and events (French)
  • Opinions, questions and answers online (French)

Controversy and public debate

Despite its advantages, the project is also generating opposition.

Some environmental associations and local residents are concerned about the impact on natural and aquatic environments, particularly as regards the fish ecosystem and water quality, on which the drinking water supply of the Lyon metropolitan area depends.

  • France3 Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes report:
Link

STOP Barrage Rhônergia

The STOP Barrage Rhonergia collective, created in November 2023, is opposed to the creation of a new dam to preserve the quality of life of local residents and protect the environment of the Rhône valley. It also aims to propose alternative solutions.

For more information, please consult the following links:

  • The collective’s website (French)
  • Facebook page (French)
  • Online petition against the dam (French)
  • Have your say (French)

The Rhônergia project is a good illustration of the challenges facing those involved in the energy transition: how to reconcile the imperatives of sustainable development with the preservation of natural and environmental resources?

This debate is at the heart of contemporary energy issues, from production to distribution to consumption, and resolving it requires a concerted approach by all the players involved.

Linked

  • TWh, kilowatt-hour and terawatt-hour, Wikipedia
  • Multi-annual energy programmes (PPE), Ministry
  • Hydroelectric dam on the Rhône, CNDP
Activities, leisure, Rhone River
Hotel, rental
Activities, visits, tickets, leisure
Activities, visits, tickets, leisure