Utilities benefit from renewable energy growth

“Even at a glance, NextEra Energy’s (NYSE: NEE) third-quarter results are impressive. Earnings per share grew 18 percent, thumping management’s long-term compound annual growth target of 6 to 8 percent. That keeps the utility on track for another 12 to 14 percent dividend boost early next year.

But the best news is inside that performance. The company’s south Florida regulated utility had another superb quarter, adding customers and investing in rate base. Management closed the acquisition of Southern Company’s (NYSE: SO) 110,000 natural gas customers in the Sunshine state. And by early next year, it will complete the deal’s second piece, adding Gulf Power’s 450,000 electric customers in the Florida panhandle.

The real eye-opening results, however, were at NextEra’s unregulated Energy Resources unit, operating contracted wind and solar generation throughout the US. The unit increased profits by 18 percent, primarily by running its fleet more efficiently. But it also set the stage for even faster growth by capitalizing on what management calls “the best renewables development environment in our history.””

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