The Sun-Sentinel‘s Florida Power & Light watchdog takes a look at one of the power company’s selling points for its preferred solar energy scheme, in which a state-approved increase in electric rates would allow the utility to recover the cost of building giant solar plants:

Global Energy United, a solar panel manufacturer that backs proposals allowing utilities to build solar plants, commissioned a study last year that found that allowing utilities to produce or generate 700 megawatts of new renewable energy could create 40,000 new jobs and $8.1 billion in economic activity in the next few years.

Critics of the legislation who advocated lowering energy use instead of building new plants cited another study that projected aggressive state programs to save energy could create 63,900 new jobs in Florida and lower utility customer bills by $7.4 billion by 2020.

She goes on to explain that these studies often rely on assumptions — like the multipliers that measure the ripple effects of jobs created “indirectly” by investments — that tend to be subjective and can move the numbers in ways that benefit the groups paying for the studies.

Still, there is a lot of evidence (such as this widely cited study by McKinsey & Company) supporting the critics’ point: If you’re interested in creating jobs in the short term and saving money over the long term, investing in efficiency offers more bang for the buck than other energy policies.

But what if you have other goals, like fostering a homegrown solar power industry, or preparing for a future when the so-called low-hanging fruit for reducing fossil fuel consumption has already been picked?

There are policies — and bills proposed in the legislature — that aim to do a little of all those things, though not necessarily in the way FPL would prefer.

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