Hydroelectricity, the energy produced in Haute Maurienne

Hydropower is 100% renewable energy, with no greenhouse gas emissions. Val Cenis is home to the huge Mont-Cenis dam, whose waters are turbined at the Villarodin hydroelectric power station. One of the special features of this dam is that it straddles the French-Italian border, and is guarded by the last dam operators in France.

The Mont Cenis dam

Visible from the Canopée des Cimes, at the summit of the Val Cenis ski area, the Mont-Cenis dam enables EDF to generate electricity from hydropower, a 100% renewable energy source with zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The electricity generated in this way primarily supplies local areas, including Val Cenis . The electricity consumed to power the lifts, snow guns and premises is therefore renewable and carbon-free.

With the Mont-Cenis dam, as well as the Aussois and Bissorte dams, Haute Maurienne Vanoise is home to enormous water reservoirs. These facilities supply the Aussois, Avrieux, Villarodin and Bissorte hydroelectric power stations. On average, these facilities produce the equivalent of 2 times the annual residential consumption of the Savoie department.

Find out more about hydropower at Haute Maurienne Vanoise.

Val Cenis
The largest rockfill dam in France

With its 320 million m3, the Mont-Cenis is the largest rockfill dam in France.

A dam between France and Italy

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the Mont-Cenis plateau, whose waters flow naturally towards Italy, had been developed for hydroelectric production. After the Second World War, following the Peace Treaty of 1947, the border that passed through the Mont-Cenis pass was moved in favor of France, which thus recovered the entire plateau, an ideal position for building a large-scale dam. The new dam, built by EDF between 1962 and 1969, created a reservoir with a capacity of 320 hm3, shared between the two countries at the rate of about 1/5 for Italy and 4/5 for France.

At 120 m high and 1.4 km long, the Mont-Cenis dam is the main component of the Haute Maurienne Vanoise hydraulic system. It is a so-called "gravity dam", meaning that its enormous mass of rock opposes the pressure of the water. To fill it, water is drawn from sources such as Bonneval sur Arc. The reservoir is even connected to the Plan d'Aval dam in Aussois, on the other side of the valley! A complex system of tunnels and penstocks transfers water from one reservoir to another, supplying the Villarodin, Avrieux and Aussois power stations as required.

The Mont-Cenis site has been the focus of a program of works designed to improve the landscape and preserve an international heritage, including the rehabilitation of the Grand-Croix mountain pasture, the undergrounding of power lines and the creation of a Franco-Italian network of hiking trails. The water from this project is also used in part to produce artificial snow for several ski resorts on Haute Maurienne Vanoise.

In summer, learn more about hydroelectricity and the Mont-Cenis dam with the game trail "A dam in my landscape".

Villarodin hydroelectric power station EDF D. Guillaudin
France's final play-offs

The Mont-Cenis dam is the last one in France to be guarded because of its location on the border between France and Italy. The barragists always work in duo with a French and an Italian technician. They spend several days on the site, surveying the kilometers of galleries that crisscross the mountain, taking readings and checking the quality of the installations.