The Centre for Energy and Thermal Sciences of Lyon was founded in 1982 under the name of " Centre for Thermal Sciences of INSA Lyon" by the merging of two laboratories (Laboratory of Industrial Physics, Laboratory of Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer), and a team (Building 'Habitat' Team), then joined in 1986 by another laboratory (Laboratory of Energetics and Automation) of the National Institute of Applied Sciences, INSA Lyon. Initially, the CETHIL adopted a federated structure, the members working in a common disciplinary field, using shared means of work, and being in charge of the teaching of this discipline in different departments at INSA Lyon. The laboratory became then associated with the University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 in 1996 and became the "Centre for Thermal Sciences of Lyon". Associated with the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in 1989, the laboratory obtained its status as a Joint Research Unit (UMR) in 2000. It was given its current name of "Centre for Energy and Thermal Sciences of Lyon" in 2013.
As for the scientific structure, the CETHIL was originally organized into its three historic teams in 1997, then was reshaped in 6 scientific themes in 2004, before adopting its current structure (5 themes). The current Head is Prof. Frédéric Kuznik, following Prof. J. Bonjour and Dr. D. Escudié.