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This Week in Utilities: New Rate Requests and Apple Adds Solar

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Utilities have been busy this week, making moves to maximize profit potential. With rate requests, solar power for Apple, and more, here's what you need to know to stay on top of your dividend stocks' latest moves.

Raking in the rates
Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK  ) announced this week that its South Carolina customers will see an approximate 4.1% hike in their monthly bills, effective immediately. Although this may seem like more profit for Duke's dividend, around 70% of the increase covers higher coal and nuclear fuel costs.

The other 30% will cover a portion of the costs for energy efficiency and energy management programs. The utility noted in its announcement that rates might've risen even further, if not for the increased use of cheap natural gas and savings from Duke's 2012 merger with Constellation Energy.

Southern Company's (NYSE: SO  ) Georgia Power subsidiary is making regulatory moves of its own, requesting a 6.1% increase in its base rate to cover increasingly expensive infrastructure investments. According to Southern, the $482 million would help offset spending on a variety of investments, including environmental controls, transmission and distribution, generation, and smart grid technologies.

"We're committed to delivering value to our customers in the form of clean, safe, reliable electricity at rates below the national average, and we're committed to being a partner that our customers can depend on day-in, day-out," Georgia Power President and CEO Paul Bowers said in a statement. If approved, the average customer's bill would boost $7.84 per month. Regulators are expected to make their decision by the end of this year.

PPL plans ahead
While Duke recovers costs and Southern hopes to, PPL (NYSE: PPL  ) submitted its own eight-year plan for its United Kingdom division. The utility serves around 7.8 million customers across the pond, and its operations abroad accounted for 49% of the corporation's ongoing 2012 earnings.

According to PPL, its long-term plan ensures significant and stable cash flow to PPL, with the possibility of benefiting further from incentives offered by U.K. regulators. One such incentive is a regulatory "fast track," which, if PPL qualifies, would cut annual expenditures by around 2.5%. 

Apple sees the light
Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) is increasing its solar stake once again. The tech company is planning its latest solar venture with NV Energy (UNKNOWN: NVE.DL  ) , a move meant to run its new Reno data center on entirely renewable power. Its largest data center, located in North Carolina, already runs on solar power generated from a 100-acre farm. According to Reuters, the new farm will generate around 43.5 million kilowatt hours of energy per year, about a quarter of its North Carolina facility. In the last few years, Apple has increased its renewable energy use from 35% in 2010 to 75% in 2012.

Stay current on electricity
The world of utilities is changing fast, and dividend stocks aren't the stable stalwarts they once were. Be sure to check back weekly for the latest on your portfolio's moves, and you'll be well on your way to electrifying earnings.

If you're on the lookout for high-yielding stocks, utilities aren't the only possibility for your portfolio. The Motley Fool has compiled a special free report outlining our nine top dependable dividend-paying stocks. It's called "Secure Your Future With 9 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks." You can access your copy today at no cost! Just click here.

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