THE owners of Victoria's electricity network have admitted to sparking at least 4320 fires between 2006 and 2010.
The startling statistic is revealed in the Australian Energy draft determination on implementing the Victorian Government's f-factor scheme, which sets yearly fire-start thresholds on the state's powerline network.
Under the scheme the Government will charge distributors $25,000 for each fire their network starts above the threshold and reward them with $25,000 for each fire below the target.
But rather than lowering the bar the Australian Energy Regulator has decided to set an annual threshold for most distributors based on the average number of fires their networks started in the past five years.
As a consequence the AER has issued a draft determination stating:
SPAUSNET'S annual threshold of 257 fires, based on its network starting 1290 fires for the period.
POWERCOR'S annual threshold of 402 fires, based on 2005 fires.
UNITED ENERGY'S threshold of 124 fires, based on 566 fires.
JEMENA'S threshold at 57 fires, based on 276 fires.
CITIPOWER'S threshold at 30 fires, based on 183 fires.
A spokesman for Energy Minister Michael O'Brien said the f-factor scheme would "ensure distribution businesses effectively and efficiently target their maintenance and fire mitigation programs".
A fire-start covered by the f-factor scheme includes any starting in or originating from a distribution system started by a tree (or part of a tree falling upon or coming into contact with a distribution system), animal, lightning strike or anything else coming into contact with a distribution system.
The scheme will begin on January 1 next year.
In the meantime, the Government has deferred implementing a key recommendation of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
Recommendation 32 of the commission's final report calls on the Government to "disable the reclose function on the automatic circuit reclosers on all SWER lines for the six weeks of greatest risk in every fire season".
The Government's Powerline Bushfire Safety Taskforce has considered and made recommendations to Mr O'Brien on the issue.
But Mr O'Brien has refused to release the report and will not make a decision on the issue until later this year, well into the bushfire season.