170 years of history and expertise are among Veolia’s achievements today, as well as its outstanding role in the international energy and utilities sector. We have to look back as far as 1853 to find out where our company started and why it has remained a key player in the energy sector for so long. On the occasion of the birthday of our parent company, we look back at where we started and where we are heading to.
On December 14, 1853 the French emperor, Napoleon III. signed the decree establishing the Compagnie Générale des Eaux, thanks to which the predecessor of Veolia was born, and in the same year the first water service contract was signed in the French city of Lyon. It didn't take long for the company and its services to expand. In 1867, they contracted to clear garbage and mud from the streets of Lyon, and the waste collected was turned into fertilizer in Nantes. The following decades were all about commercial expansion, first in Venice, then in Constantinople and Porto, they also started providing drinking water.
In the early 1900s, Compagnie Générale des Eaux continued its activities at several locations, and in 1967 it built its first waste incinerators. However, in the 1960s and 1970s, Europe also made great strides in the field of environmental protection, to which the company had to adapt. The French water framework law allowed the creation of concessionary water utility operators and introduced the "polluter pays" principle, and also created the first Ministry of the Environment, similar to the UK. One of the group's subsidiaries, Compagnie Générale de Chauffe, started developing its first innovative geothermal and energy recovery projects around the same time, during the first oil crisis, taking steps towards a more sustainable operation. Sarp Industries was also established in 1975 to handle hazardous waste.
In 1992, the company's expansion continued, but this time they signed a contract overseas to operate the wastewater service for the city of New Orleans. The year of 2000 was not only the new millennium, but also the beginning of a presence in a new area for Veolia, with a contract signed by the municipality of Prague, the company also appeared in Eastern Europe. After that, the company's international processes accelerated. A wastewater treatment plant was opened in Windhoek, Namibia, with funding from Veolia. In the Middle East, the Enova subsidiary dedicated to energy efficiency was established. In addition, they signed the first contract in China to ensure a reliable water supply for the region and large events in Shanghai.
At the beginning of the 2000s, the company further strengthened the sustainability efforts of its operations, which are now considered essential. In 2006, the first wastewater recycling activity was launched in Sainte-Maxime, France, and since then only more and more similar developments have been implemented. Nowadays, it is also necessary to provide solutions for modern problems, and Veolia wants to play as big a role as possible in this. Within the framework of the Jourdain program, following the historic drought of 2022, the company intends to convert waste water into drinking water, and in Lille it will provide heat energy to homes with SRF technology, closing its non-renewable, coal-fired power plant. In its 170th year, the company also began construction of its first electric vehicle-battery recycling plant in Moselle, and signed a contract to operate one of the world's largest seawater desalination plants in Abu Dhabi.
Just like in the 1800s, we are working hard today with our professionals to provide our consumers with sustainable and continuously available energy. We hope that this will be possible for the next 170 years as well!