Hydro training centres on Africa

3 October 2008

The Kafue Gorge Regional Training Centre is working to fulfill its goal of becoming the home for hydro power training in Africa. Brian H M Makungo gives an insight into the SADC regional facility and looks at hydro’s important role in Zambia’s power industry

The Kafue Gorge Regional Training Centre (KGRTC) is a registered trust in Zambia that was established in 1989 to provide specialist hydro power training for electricity utilities in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Sub-Sahara Africa. KGRTC is controlled by a regional Board of Trustees drawn from Malawi, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Centre is located in the vicinity of Zambia’s largest hydro power station, Kafue Gorge. It offers advanced and intensive training covering hydro power plant operations, power systems planning and maintenance amongst others.

From 1971–88, the state-owned utility Zesco Limited ran a training school at Kafue Gorge for in-house skills development. During this period approximately 250 employees attended various courses in hydroelectric engineering.

In December 1987, a joint Zambian and Norwegian team carried out an investigation into the training requirements of SADC countries. Their report recommended that the Zesco training school at Kafue Gorge should be rehabilitated and transformed into a SADC regional training centre for hydro power. The SADC Ministers of Energy later adopted the school as an extension of the rehabilitation programme for Kafue Gorge power station and named it Kafue Gorge Regional Training Centre (KGRTC).

A decision was taken to support the development of KGRTC as a donor funded project during the years 1989-92. This was sponsored by co-operating partners:

• The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

• The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD)

• Zesco Limited.

Support was given in three phases and comprised rehabilitation and expansion of the existing training facilities, and implementation of new training courses for hydro power station personnel. A conference hall with seating capacity for 100 people was built and two simulators were also installed at a cost of US$1M.

During the project period, training fees and accommodation for course participants were paid by the project. The intention was to gradually make KGRTC self-sufficient economically by the end of the project implementation period.

Sida and NORAD continued to assist with infrastructure and manpower development at the Centre from 1996 to 2000. This also included secondment of personnel from Vattenfall Training Centre in Sweden to help with training and management of the Centre.

From 2002 all seconded staff from the utilities were withdrawn and contractual employment staff engaged. However, the transition of KGRTC from being a wholly supported entity to a self-sustaining one has continued to provide a formidable challenge to the management of the Centre.

The Centre has integrated and extended its training provision to mining companies, water utilities, the farming community and other sectors of industry to ensure that all stakeholders in water resource utilisation are adequately involved. Between 1991 and 2007, KGRTC trained 2055 personnel on different courses in hydro power plant operations and maintenance as detailed in Table 1. The Centre extensively applies skills assessment techniques and training needs assessments for curriculum development and detailing.

The future

The growing demand for electricity from increased mining, industrial, commercial and agricultural activities within the SADC region over the last couple of years, and the need to meet this increasing demand with reliable sources, means that hydro power will continue to play an important role in the supply of energy.

The increasing number of units and larger capacities interconnected in complex power systems of the various power pools, together with environmental considerations, financing and profitability, are posing an increased demand for highly qualified personnel to operate plant and networks.

Since its inception, KGRTC has been playing both a complementary and audit role to the hydro power industry. The philosophy has been to train for the present and the future; providing a process-centred approach through audits to bring out insights on how operations and maintenance can be streamlined to implement best practices for world-class excellence standards. KGRTC provides unique learning experiences that allow for wider interaction and sharing of work experiences. It also creates synergies and technology exchange among professionals to complement other interventions for skills development.

With the current manpower and infrastructure development grant by Sida, KGRTC is well poised to be further transformed into a hydro power centre of excellence for conducting training, research, development and demonstration, consultancy, design and information dissemination for hydro development and management. This would ultimately enable KGRTC to actualise its vision of being the home for hydro power training and conferences for Africa and beyond.

Hydro power in Zambia

Zambia has more than 80 years of experience with hydro power technology. The first machine at Mulungushi hydro power station was commissioned in 1925 with an installed capacity of 2MW, while the first part of Victoria Falls power station swung into operation in 1936. By 1955 the country’s hydro power installed capacity was 38MW (Mulungushi 20MW, Lunsemfwa 10MW, and Victoria Falls 8MW).

In Zambia hydro power now accounts for 99.9% of the power industry, with diesel power stations accounting for the remaining 0.1%. Today total installed capacity is about 1700MW and Kafue Gorge power station alone has 900MW. Peak maximum demand stands at 1600MW but only 25% of the population has access to electricity.

The SADC region is rich in hydro power and potential hydro resources. However the region is faced with an acute shortage of electricity. Forecasted annual maximum demand has been rising while some installed capacity is actually not available as stations are either under rehabilitation or the units are not effective. This has placed enormous pressure on the region to accelerate the development of existing potential energy sources. In Zambia, as in many other countries within the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), the development of exploitable hydro power potential has been looked at as an appropriate long term measure to mitigate the power deficit.

Key projects

Zambia has abundant water resources with the available exploitable potential estimated at 4500MW. The drive for new hydro developments in Zambia is streaming from increased demand at domestic and regional levels. Potential sites around the country are detailed in Table 2.

The Managing Director for Zesco Limited, Rhodnie P. Sisala, notes that demand for power will continue to grow as the economy continues to expand. To meet this demand, the three key players on the Zambian electricity industry (CEC, LHPC and Zesco Limited) are expected to increase generation. Zesco Limited plans to increase power generation capacity from 1700MW in 2007 to 2930MW by 2011. This requires Kariba North Bank Extension to be completed by 2009, Itezhi-Tezhi by 2010 and Kafue Gorge Lower by 2011.

Rehabilitation and uprating of Victoria Falls, Kariba North Bank and Kafue Gorge power stations are at various stages of completion. Furthermore, other new hydro projects such as Kalungwishi are receiving immediate attention for development.

Matter of urgency

Zambia’s electricity industry has developed steadily and has been one of the key drivers of national development. The challenge for the Zambian government, and indeed most countries in the SADC region, remains to mobilise investment funds to develop hydroelectric potential as a matter of urgency. The need to train personnel to manage the operation and maintenance aspects is where KGRTC will play a key role to ensure sustainability and efficiency of the new stations being built.

Brian H M Makungo is the Training Manager at Kafue Gorge Regional Training Centre, PO Box 32774, Lusaka (10101) Zambia. Email: hbmmakungo@kgrtc.org.zm


The Kafue Gorge Regional Training Centre is ISO 9001:2000 certified and a Grade 1 TEVETA (Technical Education Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority) registered institution in Zambia. The centre has earned an international reputation for quality training and provision of excellent accommodation, catering and conference facilities. It is also registered with the International Centre for Hydropower in Norway, and the International Hydropower Association in the UK.
KGRTC has partnered with the project management office of the Greening the Tea Industry in East Africa (GTIEA) project and with the ICH. This is for a joint proposal for developing and enhancing the capacity for indigenous hydro power development in Eastern Africa from 2009-12. Under this arrangement KGRTC would facilitate training and technology transfer in operation and maintenance of small hydro power stations to be developed alongside the tea plantations.

Zambian power industry

With a population of about 12M and a per capita GDP of US$900 (2005 est.) Zambia’s electricity production stood at 8.347B kWh (2003) while electricity consumption was 5.345B kWh (2003). The three main players in the power industry are: Zesco Limited, Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC), and Lunsemfwa Hydro Power Company (LHPC).
Zesco Limited is a vertically integrated state owned utility which owns and operates the bulk of the generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure in the country. CEC is a privately owned generation and transmission company which owns and operates the 220kV & 66kV transmission network, plus 80MW gas turbines to supply power to Copperbelt mines. LHPC is a privately owned generation company which operates Lunsemfwa and Mulungushi hydro power stations with a total installed capacity of 38MW. All power output from LHPC is contracted to Zesco Limited.
The Zambian national grid comprises a backbone of 6430km of transmission lines in tandem with various high voltage substations to fully utilise the large amounts of power generated. The national control centre monitors, controls and coordinates all the operations in the high voltage power system which includes transmission switchings, generation dispatch and exports.
Distribution and supply operates an extensive network of more than 25,000km serving all districts in Zambia at operating voltages of 33kV, 11kV and 0.4kV. Most of the distribution network is connected to the national grid, which has been interconnected with regional power pools to facilitate exports and imports of power through SAPP while other international transmission highways are being planned to facilitate power trading across Africa. Remote parts of the country which are off-grid are served by diesel generators. Regional control centres equipped with micro-scada and located in Lusaka and Kitwe are used to monitor, control and co-ordinate operations of the distribution network.
The electricity industry is regulated and the legal framework of the Zambian power sector is governed by three pieces of legislation: the Energy Regulation Act of 1995; the Electricity Act of 1995; and the Rural Electrification Act of 2003.


Table 2
Table 1

Gorges Gorges
Generator Generator
Water hydraulics laboratory Water hydraulics laboratory
Aerial Aerial

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