Hydroelectric plant operator

Hydroelectric plant operator article illustration


Hydroelectric plant operators operate and maintain the equipment used in the production of energy from the movement of water. They monitor the measuring equipment, assess the production needs, and adapt the water flow to meet these needs. They also perform repairs and maintenance duties.

Here are some of the duties of a hydroelectric plant operator:

  • Operating and maintaining equipment that produces electrical energy from water sources
  • Monitoring measuring equipment to ensure the proper functioning of the hydroelectric power plant
  • Starting or stopping the generator’s turbines when needed
  • Disconnecting equipment from circuitry
  • Performing maintenance on machines
  • Logging operational data and compiling reports

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to hydroelectric plant operator:

hydro-power plant operative
hydroelectric plant operative
hydro plant operative
hydro plant worker
hydroelectric power plant technician
hydropower plant technician
hydro-power plant technician
hydro-power plant worker
hydroelectric plant worker
hydropower plant operator
hydropower plant operative
hydro-power plant operator
hydropower plant worker

Working conditions

Hydroelectric plant operators work in a combination of control rooms, where they monitor and control the power generation processes, and the plant site, where they perform inspections, maintenance, and repairs. The work environment can vary from indoor control rooms to outdoor areas, which may include dams, reservoirs, penstocks, and powerhouses. Operators may be exposed to various weather conditions and physically demanding tasks, such as climbing ladders, working at heights, and maneuvering around machinery. Strict adherence to safety procedures and protocols is essential to mitigate hazards associated with hydroelectric plant operations.

Minimum qualifications

The educational requirements for hydroelectric plant operators can vary, but typically a high school diploma or equivalent is required. Additional technical or vocational training in power plant operations, electrical systems, or related fields is beneficial. Operators undergo specific training in hydroelectric plant operations, safety protocols, and equipment maintenance. Some regions or employers may require operators to obtain relevant certifications or licenses, such as a power plant operator certification or electrical license. Good technical aptitude, problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work independently are essential for hydroelectric plant operators.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Hydroelectric plant operator is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Hydroelectric plant operator career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to hydroelectric plant operator.

solar power plant operator
geothermal power plant operator
power production plant operator
fossil-fuel power plant operator
electrical power distributor

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of hydroelectric plant operator. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of hydroelectric plant operator with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

electric power generation engineer
wind energy engineer
substation engineer
power distribution engineer
power plant manager

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of hydroelectric plant operator.

  • Hydroelectricity: The generation of electrical power through the usage of hydropower, which uses gravitational force of moving water, and the benefits and negative aspects of using hydropower as a renewable source of energy.
  • Electric current: Flow of electric charge, carried by electrons or ions in a medium such as an electrolyte or a plasma.
  • Electrical power safety regulations: The compliance with safety measures which need to be taken during the installation, operation, and maintenance of constructions and equipment which function in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electrical power, such as the appropriate safety gear, equipment handling procedures, and preventive actions.
  • Hydraulics: The power transmission systems that use the force of flowing liquids to transmit power.
  • Electricity: Understand the principles of electricity and electrical power circuits, as well as the associated risks.
  • Electric generators: The principles and operations of devices that can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy, such as dynamos and alternators, rotors, stators, armatures, and fields.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of hydroelectric plant operator.

  • Maintain electrical equipment: Test electrical equipment for malfunctions. Take safety measures, company guidelines, and legislation concerning electrical equipment into account. Clean, repair and replace parts and connections as required.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear: Wear relevant and necessary protective gear, such as protective goggles or other eye protection, hard hats, safety gloves.
  • Maintain hydraulic systems: Perform routine maintenance and repairs on systems which use pressurised fluids to provide power to machines and equipment.
  • Operate hydraulic pumps: Operate hydraulic pumping systems.
  • Operate hydraulic machinery controls: use correctly the controls of specialized machinery by turning valves, handwheels, or rheostats to move and control flow of fuels, water, and dry or liquid binders to machines.
  • Apply health and safety standards: Adhere to standards of hygiene and safety established by respective authorities.
  • Monitor electric generators: Monitor the operation of electric generators in power stations in order to ensure functionality and safety, and to identify need for repairs and maintenance.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of hydroelectric plant operator. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Electricity consumption: The different factors which are involved in the calculation and estimation of electricity consumption in a residence or facility, and methods in which electricity consumption can be lowered or made more efficient.
  • Technical drawings: Drawing software and the various symbols, perspectives, units of measurement, notation systems, visual styles and page layouts used in technical drawings.
  • Renewable energy technologies: The different types of energy sources which cannot be depleted, such as wind, solar, water, biomass, and biofuel energy. The different technologies used to implement these types of energy to an increasing degree, such as wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, photovoltaics, and concentrated solar power.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of hydroelectric plant operator. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Maintain records of maintenance interventions: Keep written records of all repairs and maintenance interventions undertaken, including information on the parts and materials used, etc.
  • Resolve equipment malfunctions: Identify, report and repair equipment damage and malfunctions; communicate with field representatives and manufacturers to obtain repair and replacement components.
  • Ensure safety in electrical power operations: Monitor and control operations on an electrical power transmission and distribution system in order to ensure that major risks are controlled and prevented, such as electrocution risks, damage to property and equipment, and instability of transmission or distribution.
  • Arrange equipment repairs: Arrange for equipment repairs when necessary.
  • Respond to electrical power contingencies: Set in motion the strategies created for responding to emergency situations, as well as respond to unforeseen problems, in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electrical power, such as power outages, in order to rapidly solve the problem and return to normal operations.
  • Ensure compliance with electricity distribution schedule: Monitor the operations of an electrical energy distribution facility and electricity distribution systems in order to ensure that the distribution goals and the electricity supply demands are met.
  • Install hydraulic systems: Install systems and components that use liquid fluid power to create mechanical movements such as hydraulic pumps, valves, hydraulic motors, hydraulic cylinders and other elements that power hydraulic machinery.
  • Provide advice to technicians: Offer help and advice to service technicians in case of machine malfunctions and other repair tasks.
  • Develop strategies for electricity contingencies: Develop and implement strategies which ensure that swift and efficient actions can be taken in the event of a disruption in the generation, transmission, or distribution of electrical energy, such as a power outage or sudden increase of demand.
  • Read engineering drawings: Read the technical drawings of a product made by the engineer in order to suggest improvements, make models of the product or operate it.
  • Coordinate electricity generation: Communicate the current demand of electricity generation to electricity generation workers and facilities in order to ensure that the generation of electrical power can be increased or decreased accordingly.
  • Liaise with engineers: Collaborate with engineers to ensure common understanding and discuss product design, development and improvement.
  • Ensure equipment maintenance: Ensure that the equipment required for operations is regularly checked for faults, that routine maintenance tasks are performed, and that repairs are scheduled and performed in the case of damage or flaws.
  • Replace large components: Dismantle and reassemble equipment or system parts in order to replace large defective elements such as generators or engines.

ISCO group and title

3131 – Power production plant operators

  1. Hydroelectric plant operator – ESCO
  2. Featured image: By foooomio – Kurobe Hydroelectric Power Plant, CC BY 2.0,
Last updated on June 18, 2023