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Smart meter roll outs continue

Vote against Hydro devices won't slow setups

Energy giant B.C. Hydro will continue outfitting its customers with wireless smart meters despite a majority vote by delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities for a moratorium on the mandatory installment of the devices.

Richmond was one of the first cities in the province to start getting the meters installed.

However, municipal politicians voted 55 per cent on Friday in favour of putting a halt to Hydro's smart meter program until the major issues associated with the $930-million project can be addressed.

The smart meters have proved one of the hot-button issues at this year's annual meeting of mayors and councillors, with critics raising the alarm over such issues as the potential health effects, cost and efficiency of having them attached to their homes.

Many critics also expressed anger over having the devices imposed on them with little or no consultation.

Hydro has already installed 100,000 smart meters and intends to eventually hand one out to each of its 1.8 million customers.

Premier Christy Clark said the government will not back away from the plan, despite Friday's vote, which was, ironically, done using wireless devices.

While she acknowledged many residents are worried about the potential health issues, she said she doesn't share those concerns.

"There are some real benefits for rate payers in smart meters and there are some real benefits for our economy with smart meters as well because it will allow us to grow our economy and get Hydro out there more efficiently for people," said Clark.

Hydro has said the devices are safe, accurate and will keep rates low by creating a more efficient power system and reducing power loss.

Exposure over 20 years to a smart meter is comparable to a 30-minute phone call, said Hydro.

The new meters are expected to save customers $70 million over the next three years.

Hydro said customers can't opt out of the program, but can apply to have the installation delayed.

NDP energy critic John Horgan called on the Liberal government to honour the moratorium until a "full independent review can be completed."

"With the Union of B.C. Municipalities voting in favour of a moratorium this morning, it's clearly time the Liberal government started listening to communities and to ratepayers," he said.

"Let's use the independent review process we have in place at the B.C. Utilities Commission to take a look at all the unanswered questions about smart meters."

Additional information about the smart meter program can be found at www.