02/20/2015 01:12 EST | Updated 04/22/2015 05:59 EDT

SaskPower says almost all smart meters in province have been removed

SASKATOON - Saskatchewan's Crown utility says almost all smart meters have been removed from homes in the province.

SaskPower says there are only a handful of meters left in Regina, Moose Jaw and surrounding rural areas.

Spokesman Tyler Hopson says SaskPower is working with property owners to get access to the meters, but some of those customers are out of the country.

Last summer, the government ordered the utility to remove more than 100,000 newer models after several fires related to the equipment raised safety concerns.

SaskPower set itself a deadline of March 15 and earmarked $15 million for the removal.

Hopson says the job is on time and on budget.

“It has gone well. There have been some challenges with colder weather and with accessing customer properties,” Hopson said.

“Despite that, we’re pleased that more than 99 per cent of meters are removed several weeks ahead of deadline.”

Of the 105,000 customers that had smart meters, 2,800 asked for priority removal.

Last July, SaskPower suspended its installation of smart meters after at least eight of them caught fire. Two more meters failed in November and December.

An investigation by Saskatchewan's Crown Investment Corp. found that rain water and contaminants getting into the meters contributed to them melting or burning.

The report also said SaskPower failed to look at the possibility that the meters could short out and catch fire.

Robert Watson resigned as CEO of SaskPower over the issue.

(CKOM, The Canadian Press)