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Occupational Certificate: Hydro Power Plant Operator 
104458  Occupational Certificate: Hydro Power Plant Operator 
Development Quality Partner - EWSETA 
-   OQSF - Occupational Qualifications Sub-framework 
Occupational Certificate  Field 06 - Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology  Manufacturing and Assembly 
Undefined  340  Not Applicable  NQF Level 05  Regular-ELOAC 
Passed the End Date -
Status was "Registered" 
EXCO 05164/18  2018-09-12  2023-09-12 
2024-09-12   2027-09-12  

In all of the tables in this document, both the pre-2009 NQF Level and the NQF Level is shown. In the text (purpose statements, qualification rules, etc), any references to NQF Levels are to the pre-2009 levels unless specifically stated otherwise.  

This qualification replaces: 
Qual ID Qualification Title Pre-2009 NQF Level NQF Level Min Credits Replacement Status
61549  National Certificate: Power Plant Auxiliary Systems Operations  Level 3  NQF Level 03  120  Complete 
61569  Further Education and Training Certificate: Power Plant Operations  Level 4  NQF Level 04  130  Complete 

The purpose of this qualification is to prepare a learner to operate as a Hydro Power Plant Operator.

A Hydro Power Plant Operator monitors, controls and performs field operations on hydro power plant systems and safety related equipment to facilitate the generation of energy safely and reliably.

A qualified learner will be able to:
  • Operate and control the auxiliary plants of a hydro power generation facility.
  • Perform field operations on power generation plants in a hydro power generation facility.

    The National Development Plan aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. According to the plan, South Africa can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society.

    Research confirms the fact that there is a direct causal relationship between the availability of reliable and cost-efficient energy and economic development. The Integrated Resource Plan 2010 to 2030 (IRP) anticipates that, to sustain the required economic growth needed to deliver on the South African National Development plan we will have to increase our electricity generating capacity by approximately 40%. This will be done through a balanced mix of electricity generations that is set out in the IRP.

    Eskom generates approximately 95% of the electricity used in South Africa and approximately 45% of the electricity used in Africa. Eskom generates, transmits and distributes electricity to industrial, mining, commercial, agricultural and residential customers and redistributors. Additional power stations and major power lines are being built to meet rising electricity demand in South Africa. Eskom will continue to focus on improving and strengthening its core business of electricity generation, transmission, trading, and distribution.

    Hydro Power generation forms a critical component of the future energy mix for the supply of base load and peak demand. Currently, this is only a small component of the national energy grid, but the intention is to grow this, not only in South Africa but the whole of SADC.

    This qualification is targeted at developing occupational competence for a key occupational grouping in the power generation value chain. Power Plant Operators are on duty 24 hours a day and ensures the efficient operation of the various power plants.

    There is a continual shortage of skills in this occupation, and with the new build programmes, this situation will continue to be a problem for years to come.

    The capacity building of this cadre of employees is critical to the success of our National development plan and the sustaining of our current economy. This qualification replaces two qualifications that are currently being used extensively in the industry. This qualification is an enhancement of those qualifications, and there will be an immediate and growing uptake of this qualification.

    Obtaining this qualification will launch the learner onto a career path within the industry and will assist in creating the required pool of future leaders in this essential sector. 

    Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL):
    RPL for access to the external integrated summative assessment:
    Accredited providers and approved workplaces must apply the internal assessment criteria specified in the related curriculum document to establish and confirm prior learning. Accredited providers and workplaces must confirm prior learning by issuing a statement of result or certifying a work experience record.

    RPL for access to the qualification:
    Accredited providers and approved workplaces may recognise prior learning against the relevant access requirements.

    Entry Requirements:
  • Level 4 with communication, science and mathematical literacy. 


    This qualification is made up of the following compulsory Knowledge Practical Skills and Work Experience Modules:
    Knowledge Modules:
  • 313103-000-00-01-KM-01, Power plant technical understanding, Level 4, 40 Credits.
  • 313103-000-00-01-KM-02, Fundamentals of power plant operations, Level 4, 12 Credits.
  • 313103-000-00-01-KM-03, Dams, Waterways and inlet valve, Level 4, 16 Credits.
  • 313103-000-00-01-KM-04, Hydro power plant auxiliary operations, Level 4, 16 Credits.
  • 313103-000-00-01-KM-05, Science and technology of power generating plants, Level 5, 20 Credits.
  • 31303-000-00-01-KM-06, Operating principles of pump turbines and generator/motors in hydro power plants, Level 5, 20 Credits.
    Total number of credits for Knowledge Modules: 124.

    Practical Skill Modules:
  • 31303-000-00-01-PM-01, Operate and control hydro power plant Auxiliary systems, Level 4, 32 Credits.
  • 31303-000-00-01-PM-02-, Operate and conduct field work in hydro power generating plants (Turbine/pump system, Governor system, Electrical systems, spherical valves), Level 5, 40 Credits.
    Total number of credits for Practical Skill Modules: 72.

    Work Experience Modules:
  • 313103-000-00-01-WM-01, Operate and control hydro power plant auxiliary systems, Level 4, 48 Credits.
  • 313103-000-00-01-WM-02, Conduct field work on hydro power generating plants, Level 5, 96 Credits.
    Total number of credits for Work Experience Modules: 144. 

    1. Prepare all hydro power plant systems for service to ensure operability of the plant.
    2. Perform field operations on the various hydro power plant systems/components during start up, normal operations and shut down.
    3. Monitor and control hydro plant systems/components in the field in different operating conditions, to ensure that they continuously operate within the required specifications and parameters.
    4. Conduct required administration and reporting functions in a hydro power generation plant. 

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 1:
  • Engineering system drawings, flow diagram's and approved procedures/plant documentation are correctly identified relevant to the specific equipment and systems indicated on the drawings.
  • Flow paths are accurately plotted, and all key equipment components are accurately identified.
  • Flow paths are analysed to identify the most appropriate configuration of plant equipment for specific operations.
  • Appropriate procedures are used for the interpretation and analysis of flow paths.
  • Procedures are used in accordance with the required standards and globally accepted expectations.
  • Major plant components are correctly listed, and the purpose of each of the component is accurately described.
  • Explanations of how to identify major plant equipment in the various plants and their locations are described without reference to floor plans, procedures or any other material.
  • The potential hazards and risks associated with key equipment are described accurately, and the preventative measures are described as per the relevant procedures.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 2:
  • Appropriate procedures/plant documents are accurately selected, and the specific sections of the procedures/plant documents are interpreted according to the specific plant/component condition.
  • Descriptions of operating processes/steps under a range of normal conditions are accurate according to the approved operating procedures/plant documents and describe the up and down stream implications.
  • Appropriate human error prevention tools are selected in order to deal with a full range of operation performance problems and the use of the tools are accurately described.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 3:
  • Causes of deviating performance are correctly identified and the reporting processes described according to the approved procedures/plant documents.
  • Appropriate alternative corrective actions are identified, and their implementation described according to approved processes.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 4:
  • All relevant documentation and reports for operating the plant are identified and the purpose of the documents and reports described in terms of the standards and expectations.
  • Relevant safety and occupational health sign posting and barricading for all plant areas are identified, and the safety requirements for each area described in terms of the appropriate regulatory requirements.
  • The principles and implications of housekeeping are described according to the operating standards and expectations and its impact on operating performance.

    Integrated Assessment:

    Integrated Formative Assessment:
    The skills development provider will use the curriculum to guide them on the stipulated internal assessment criteria and weighting. They will also apply the scope of practical skills and applied knowledge as stipulated by the internal assessment criteria. This formative assessment leads to entrance into the integrated external summative assessment.

    Integrated Summative Assessment:
    An external integrated summative assessment, conducted through the relevant Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) Assessment Quality Partner is required for the issuing of this qualification. The external integrated summative assessment will focus on the Exit Level Outcomes and Associated Assessment Criteria. 

    The power of falling water has been used to produce electricity for over 135 years.

    Some of the earliest innovations in using water power were conceived in China during the Han Dynasty between 202 BC and 9 AD. Trip hammers powered by the vertical-set water wheel were used to pound and hull grain, break ore, and in early paper-making.

    The world's first hydroelectric project was used to power a single lamp in the Crag side country house in Northumberland, England, in 1878. Four years later, the first plant to serve a system of private and commercial customers was opened in Wisconsin, United States of America (USA), and within a decade, hundreds of hydropower plants were in operation.

    In North America, hydropower plants were installed at Grand Rapids, Michigan (1880), Ottawa, Ontario (1881), Dolgeville, New York (1881), and Niagara Falls, New York (1881). They were used to supply mills and light some local buildings.

    By the turn of the 20th century, the technology was spreading around the globe, with Germany producing the first three-phase hydro-electric system in 1891, and Australia launching the first publicly owned plant in the Southern Hemisphere in 1895.

    In 1895, the world's largest hydroelectric development of the time, the Edward Dean Adams Power Plant, was created at Niagara Falls.

    In 1905, a hydroelectric station was built on the Xindian creek near Taipei, with an installed capacity of 500 kW. This was quickly followed by the first station in mainland China, the Shilongba plan in the Yunnan province, which was built in 1910 and put into operation in 1912. Upon completion Shilongba had an installed capacity of 480 kW - today it is still in operation with an installed capacity of 6 MW.

    In the first half of the 20th century, the USA and Canada led the way in hydropower engineering. At 1,345 MW, the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River became the world's largest hydro-electric plant in 1936, surpassed by the Grand Coulee Dam (1,974 MW at the time, 6,809 MW today) in Washington in 1942.

    From the 1960s through to the 1980s, large hydropower developments were carried out in Canada, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and Latin America.

    Over the last few decades, Brazil and China have become world leaders in hydropower. The Itaipu Dam, straddling Brazil and Paraguay, opened in 1984 at 12,600 MW (it has since been enlarged and updated to 14,000 MW) and is today only eclipsed in size by the 22,500 MW China Three Gorges Dam, which opened in 2008.

    Hydropower today:
    Into the 21stcentury, hydropower continues to catalyse growth around the world. For example, it has played a key role in transforming Brazil into the seventh largest country by Gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012; not least through a period of very rapid economic growth between 2000 and 2010, which saw its increase in (nominal GDP) value only outpaced by the USA and China.

    This was only possible with the massive increases in electricity output that have been delivered by its investment in hydropower. In 2010, Brazil produced 349,000 GWh of electricity, and by 2011 this had increased by 40 percent to 489,000 GWh. Remarkably, just 2 percent of this energy came from imports and around 80 percent from hydropower.

    The result is a very modern fleet of very large hydropower stations - of which at least 24 are rated at 500 MW or above. Brazil has made the most of its rich hydrological resource to transform itself into a leader on the world stage, keep costs down and maintain its energy independence from the rest of the world.

    This is just one example of the massive stimulus to economic growth that hydropower can provide; as we look towards the future, the technology has a huge role to play in bringing growth and prosperity to the developing world.

    Internationally there has always been the debate regarding the integration of the Operating and the Maintenance roles within the industry. This impact on the training and education provided to Operators. In this qualification, like other process operator qualifications in South Africa, the focus is on the Operational side. Maintenance is conducted by separate employees, and therefore the learning in this Occupational qualification is limited to the operational procedures and the fundamental operating principles of the various systems and processes in the plant. For international comparability, the following qualifications/programmes were used:
  • Hydro Electric Power Plant Certificate: University of Arizona USA.
  • KRAFTWERKSSCHULE Hydroelectric Training Programme: Germany.

    The Hydro Electric Power Plant Certificate is an on-line training programme that covers the theory required to work as an operator in a Hydro Power Plant. The certificate is pitched at the level of a one-year post school level. The training covers the following subjects:
  • The role of Hydro Power in the power generation system.
  • The typical components of a Hydro Power Generation System.
  • The functions in the use and control of water.
  • Structural and functional features of different types of hydro turbines.
  • Types of equipment used to monitor and control and their operations.
  • Major constructional features and function and typical layout of the various auxiliary systems.
  • General responsibilities and tasks performed by operations and maintenance personnel.
    The programme is conducted over a six-month period.

    There are similarities in the content of the theory covered in this certificate and the theoretical component of the South African Occupational Certificate. However, the South African Certificate covers a more in-depth level of theory and combines it with a practical and workplace component which is missing from the USA certificate.

    There are literary hundreds of Hydroelectric Power Generating Plants in the USA, these plants have been in operation since the here are many Hydro Electric Power Plants. In the United States, there are thousands of power plants. These plants include a vast range of hydroelectric plants. The bulk of the training for Power Plant operators, in the USA takes place on the job. However there are many colleges, universities and online training programmes that prepare learners with the required theoretical components. (Such as the Certificate from the University of Arizona, discussed here) The various training institutions make use of comprehensive simulators and mainly aim to achieve the following learner competencies:
  • Ability to operate a power plant with safety as the prime consideration.
  • Ability to monitor instrumentation and the operation of equipment.
  • Ability to adjust system process variables, such as flows, temperatures, and pressures, within acceptable ranges.
  • Ability to detect potential and actual problems and take corrective action to prevent the interruption of system operations.
  • Ability to analyse operational trends and take corrective actions.
  • Ability to use standard operating procedures to start and stop production equipment.
  • Ability to maintain communication with other operators, maintenance, and management.
    The programmes in the USA cover a similar range of theory to that contained in the Occupational Certificate. However the duration of the theory is significantly less than that of the Occupational Certificate.

    With the highest annual electricity demand and generation, Germany has the largest power system in Europe. Furthermore, its energy system is interconnected with ten countries with a total transfer capacity of more than 20 GW. German and European energy systems are heavily intertwined, and the sheer size of the German power system has an undoubtedly influence on its European neighbours. Hydropower installations (including pumped storage) account for a share of around 6 percent of installed capacity in Germany at roughly 11,300 MW (including 1,244 MW of shared storage hydropower with Austria), and with approximately 22,000 GWh for about 3 percent of the net electricity generation.

    In Europe, specifically Germany, vocational specialisation takes place at a relatively early schooling phase, and therefore the learner exits the schooling system with a high level of technical knowledge and in some cases exposure to the practical aspects of the industry. From here theoretical knowledge is gained through schools that offer certificates and associated degree programs in power plant technology. The training in these schools is linked to the VGB Standards. ("VGB PowerTech e.V." is the international technical association for generation and storage of power and heat) the work place experience is gained through intern-ships at Power Utilities.

    The learning provided by courses such as those presented by the KRAFTWERKSSCHULE Hydroelectric Training Programme in Germany will cover the following subjects:
  • Operational and plant security,
  • Economic efficiency,
  • Environmental acceptability,
  • Implementation of new technologies,
  • Competitiveness of different technologies and
  • Respective legislation on design, construction, and operation of plants.

    Most programs, in Europe, are linked to an Operator maintainer developmental approach, this is different from the South African context where the Operators and Maintenance staff work separately and undergo different training programmes. The German training is based on the, so called, International utilities make use of independent schools to cover the Knowledge and practical components. Workplace experience is addressed during internships and the Power Utility.

    There are similarities in the theoretical content of the learning provided in the stated international examples and the South African Occupational Certificate. However, the occupational structures in South Africa are different from those in the USA and Germany and therefore a more hands on approach to training is used in South Africa. It is difficult to conclude on the levels of the training that is provided, but the overall content covers the same topics with emphasis on operating standards, safety, and compliance with operational procedures. The South African qualifications do not cover the maintenance components that are, in most cases, included in the international examples. 

    Horizontal Articulation:
    This qualification articulates horizontally with:
  • National Diploma: Electrical Network Power Dispatch Controlling, Level 5.

    Vertical Articulation:
    This qualification articulates vertically with:
  • Occupational Certificate: Hydro Power Plant Process Controller, Level 6. 



    Qualifying for external assessment:
  • To qualify for an external assessment, learners must provide proof of completion of all required modules by means of statements of results and work experience.

    Additional legal or physical entry requirements:
  • Learners must be found fit in terms of the occupational health requirements for working in a coal fired power plant.
  • Compliance with the medical fitness requirements for employment in a power plant is required.

    Criteria for the accreditation of providers:
  • Accreditation of providers will be done against the criteria as reflected in the relevant curriculum on the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) website.
  • The curriculum title and code are: Hydro Power Plant Operator: 313103-000-00-01

    This qualification encompasses the following trades as recorded on the National Learners' Records Database (NLRD):
  • This is not a trade.

    Assessment Quality Partners (AQP):
  • Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority. 

    When qualifications are replaced, some (but not all) of their learning programmes are moved to the replacement qualifications. If a learning programme appears to be missing from here, please check the replaced qualification.

    This information shows the current accreditations (i.e. those not past their accreditation end dates), and is the most complete record available to SAQA as of today. Some Primary or Delegated Quality Assurance Functionaries have a lag in their recording systems for provider accreditation, in turn leading to a lag in notifying SAQA of all the providers that they have accredited to offer qualifications and unit standards, as well as any extensions to accreditation end dates. The relevant Primary or Delegated Quality Assurance Functionary should be notified if a record appears to be missing from here.

    All qualifications and part qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework are public property. Thus the only payment that can be made for them is for service and reproduction. It is illegal to sell this material for profit. If the material is reproduced or quoted, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) should be acknowledged as the source.