A renewal in renewables tax credits and incentives have spurred continued growth of wind, solar, and other alternative energy sources. Several utilities took the opportunity of Earth Day to announce their latest acquisitions and advancements. Let's see if these dividend stocks' efforts to go green can put some greenbacks in your portfolio.
Southern goes solar
Southern Company's (NYSE:SO) Georgia Power announced today that it is adding on another 250 MW in wind to its power purchases. The renewable energy will be sourced from EDP Renewables' Oklahoma wind farms, and will provide enough power (at peak) to electrify 50,000 Georgia homes. But Georgians will have to wait for wind – the first purchases aren't scheduled to hit home until 2016.
This latest announcement comes six months after the company announced a similar solar initiative, whereby Southern will contract 210 MW of solar power from customers and solar developers over the next two years. But Southern has a lot of greening to go: 52% of its 43,500 MW of generation capacity comes from coal, with another 30% from oil and gas.
Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) took the opportunity of Earth Day to publish its annual Sustainability Report. The company expects to pass the halfway mark on its $9 billion modernization program by the end of 2013, retiring a total of 6,300 MW of coal capacity over the next few years. That kind of progress spells sustainability for this dividend stock.
Looking ahead, Duke has set a goal of owning or purchasing 6,000 MW of wind, solar, and biomass power by 2020. According to its latest 10-K report, the company currently owns around 1,270 MW of wind and solar capacity, equivalent to approximately 2.2% of its total commercial and franchised generation.
Xcel excels at cutting carbon
Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) announced today that it expects to surpass its goal of a 20% CO2 reduction by 2020 by up to 7%. Xcel has favored wind as its main method for getting rid of greenhouse gases. The utility currently owns 4,900 MW of wind capacity, approximately 12% of its total generation portfolio.
According to the release, Xcel has additional plans to wind up wind production in Colorado, the upper Midwest, and Texas. But with 59% of its fiscal 2012 generation originating from coal, Xcel might not move as fast as it has in the past, considering the increasing cost competitiveness of coal.
Dominion goes for a greenwash
While other utilities announced progress or projects related to renewables, Dominion (NYSE:D) celebrated Earth Day by announcing the first awards for its $500,000 environmental grant program. Although providing community grants is an admirable endeavor, I'm wary and weary of corporate "greenwashing."
Clever public relations campaigns can do a lot to improve image and espouse environmentalism, but I'd rather see a utility address environmentalism within its own business model. Dominion should be discussing its 150 MW coal to biomass conversion expected by the end of 2013 or, even better, an announcement that the utility will buy up the rest of its current 50-50 ownership with BP of a 300 MW wind farm. Investors buy dividend stocks for their sustainable strategies, not their news pieces.
Utilities aren't obligated to make Earth Day announcements – and they shouldn't be. But investors shouldn't expect TECO Energy (NYSE:TE) to be talking green anytime soon. The company's more coal-centric than any other utility. Not only does 61% of its generation capacity come from coal, but the utility also owns and operates coal mines capable of producing 9 million tons annually. While coal might boost this dividend stock in the short term as rising natural gas prices make coal more cost effective, TECO will need major improvements in clean coal technology or a massive modernization project to keep it competitive in the years to come.
Green for green?
Blindly ramping up renewables won't help shareholders or long-term energy sustainability – but neither will turning a blind eye. Companies like Southern, Duke, and Xcel are making progress in the world of clean energy, while Dominion puts its PR foot forward and TECO stays silent. Keep a close eye on your energy investments' greenifications, and you'll be well on your way to grabbing greenbacks for your sustainable portfolio.
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