Former Vice President Al Gore on Tuesday backed Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's “carbon surcharge” proposal for Department of Water and Power customers despite reports indicating that the plan could hike power fees as much as 28.4 percent.

“Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles has introduced one of the most forward-thinking clean energy plans I have ever seen,” Gore said in a statement. ” … This innovative proposal can be the catalyst the Department of Water and Power needs to power Los Angeles' use of green energy.”

Villaraigosa's plan, which he said would cost the average customer about an extra $2.50 month (now he says it's up to $3.50 a month), is aimed at weening the city off coal power and onto 20 percent renewable energy by the end of the year. It will also create 16,000 jobs and retrofit homes and businesses with energy efficient gear.

But … the Los Angeles Times reports that the hikes, the first of which has already been approved by the DWP board, would amount to 8.8 to 28.4 percent power-bill increases, and that some of the extra cash would go to initiatives already underway at the DWP.

Some on the City Council are challenging the initial rate hike and will debate whether to send the plan back to the DWP board for reconsideration Tuesday. Opponents are concerned that the hike comes at the worst time — high unemployment plagues the city — with a DWP that is the city's richest department. While the city faces a near-$700 million deficit in July and the possibility of 4,000 layoffs, many DWP workers are getting raises.

Still, Gore likes the plan:

“It allocates a portion of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's rate collection into a trust fund to create a renewable energy and efficiency trust fund to invest in clean, green energy and job creation,” states the Nobel Prize-winner. ” … This investment will lower greenhouse gas emissions while enabling the City of Los Angeles to invest locally its own green economy and stimulating job creation exactly when Los Angeles needs it most.”

His message was aimed at the City Council, “I hope the Los Angeles City Council supports this Carbon Reduction proposal.”

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