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Opponents to the smart meter program fear negative effects on their health, privacy and hydro bills. (CBC )

The provincial government will not order a halt to the installation of BC Hydro smart meters despite a vote for a moratorium on the controversial devices by B.C. municipal leaders.

The government will proceed with the billion-dollar smart meter program, Energy Minister Rich Coleman said Friday after delegates to the Union of B.C. Municipalities voted 55 per cent in favour of the moratorium.

Coleman said the meters were the global standard for a modern power grid.

The meters measure residents' power consumption and then use wireless signals to beam that information back to BC Hydro.

Some opponents fear the units will release too much radiation but Hydro says living next to a smart meter for 20 years would expose a resident to the same level of radiation as a 30-minute cellphone call.

The utility says the new technology will make the province's energy grid more efficient, sustainable and better able to respond to power outages.

NDP backs moratorium

The BC New Democrats on Friday also called for the government to suspend the installation program pending an independent review by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

NDP energy critic John Horgan said the decision to proceed in spite of a rising tide of consumer unease about smart meters shows the government is out of step with the people of the province.

Opponents cite a wide-ranging list of concerns, including potential danger from radiation, a risk to privacy from wireless signals sending data to BC Hydro and a concern the meters will cause electricity bills to increase.

Those opponents have set up websites, started petitions and convinced a number of municipalities, including Victoria, Invermere and Colwood, to pass their own resolutions calling on BC Hydro to stop or delay the smart meters.

About 100,000 smart meters have been installed so far and plan to install 1.8 million by December 2012.