Utilities in the U.S. are facing more uncertainty than ever before as the energy landscape changes around them. Coal is dying, while renewable energy is growing faster than many once thought possible. This couldn't be a bigger deal for the utility sector and its investors. Fortunately, a few choice names long ago started pivoting toward renewable energy sources, to benefit both the environment and their shareholders. The undisputed leader -- of interest to any dividend-minded investor -- is NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE).

The rise of renewable usage

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that renewable energy will experience a huge amount of growth in the coming decades:

Chart showing that renewable energy such as solar is projected to grow well into the 2040s

Image source: U.S. Energy Information Administration -- Annual Energy Outlook 2017.

Which brings us to NextEra. Not only is NextEra one of the largest electric utilities in the U.S., but it also happens to be the biggest producer of renewable energy. It has consolidated revenues of approximately $16.2 billion; approximately 45,900 megawatts of generating capacity, which includes megawatts associated with noncontrolling interests related to NextEra Energy Partners, LP; and approximately 14,700 employees in 30 states and Canada, as of the end of 2016.

NextEra Energy is headquartered in Juno Beach, Florida. One of its principal subsidiaries is Florida Power & Light Company, which serves approximately 4.9 million customer accounts in Florida and is one of the largest rate-regulated electric utilities in the United States. Another division is NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which, together with its affiliated entities, is the world's largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun and spearheads the company's renewable efforts. Last but not least, NextEra owns 79.9% of its Master Limited Partnership NextEra Energy Partners which owns and operates a portfolio of solar and wind, as well as natural gas midstream, assets. 

Power from the sun in the Sunshine State

Perhaps the greatest example of NextEra's renewable credentials is its Florida Power & Light (FPL) subsidiary. Currently, FPL's capital spending is dominated by renewables -- particularly solar.

 In April 2017, the company announced plans to install 2,100 MW of solar capacity in Florida over the next 7 years -- up from a previously planned 1,500 MW. 

Solar field owned by Florida Power & Light.


Image source: Florida Power & Light.

It doesn't stop there. Construction on the Okeechobee Clean Energy Center, with a capacity of approximately 1,750 MW, is on schedule and under budget. Once it begins operations in mid-2019, Okeechobee will be one of the cleanest plants of its size in the world.

In addition, the company is currently petitioning regulators for the modernization of its Lauderdale plant in Dania Beach. If approved, the roughly 1,200 MW Dania Beach Clean Energy Center will run off of highly efficient natural gas. FPL is also petitioning to shut down its St. Johns River Power Park, a roughly 1,300 MW coal-combustion plant. If approved, it will move Florida and the world toward more renewable electricity generation, and prevent millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Renewable energy is turning into a cash cow

NextEra Energy may have generated more power from wind and solar last year than any other company in the world, but that matters not if it can't be done profitably. Fortunately, NextEra is striking a solid balance between doing good and generating a profit. 

NextEra's results in its recently reported second-quarter bear this out. NextEra Energy's rate-regulated subsidiary, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), reported earnings of $526 million for the three-month period, or $1.12 per share, compared with $448 million, or $0.96 per share, for the prior-year quarter. NextEra Energy Resources contributed earnings attributable to NextEra Energy of $301 million, or $0.64 per share, compared with $234 million, or $0.50 per share, in the prior-year similar quarter.

These strong results were no fluke:

NEE Net Income (TTM) Chart

NEE Net Income (TTM) data by YCharts

Looking ahead, analysts polled by S&P Global Market Intelligence expect full year 2017 EPS to come in at $6.72 and march upward to $8.75 per share by FY 2021. With a 2.7% dividend yield, and a long runway of consistent renewable growth ahead of it, NextEra Energy is not just the utility of the future, but a stock for the future as well.

Sean O'Reilly has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.