Renewable energy stocks that pay a dividend have been hit or miss for investors in the last few years. Many renewable energy asset owners haven't performed as well as expected because they lacked a pipeline of projects that would keep the dividend growing year after year, leading them to sell their businesses to large investors. 

Ironically, the renewable energy asset owners that remain are in a better position than their predecessors because they have a smaller pool of competitors looking to buy projects and a project pipeline strategy that has worked for years. Today, the three renewable energy dividends that I think are still worth owning are from NextEra Energy Partners (NYSE:NEP), Hannon Armstrong (NYSE:HASI), and Brookfield Renewable Partners (NYSE:BEP)

Wind and solar assets with an urban background.

Image source: Getty Images.

Renewable energy from a utility giant

NextEra Energy Partners has defied the odds in renewable energy in large part because of its affiliation with NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE), the traditional utility giant. On its own, NextEra Energy Partners owns 5,330 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power plants (plus a few pipelines) that have an average remaining contract life of 16 years and decades of usable life after that. This ensures cash flow long term, but contracted cash flow alone hasn't been enough to keep all renewable energy asset owners afloat. 

What differentiates this company is having NextEra Energy as a sponsor that comes with a pipeline of 11,500 MW to 18,500 MW of new solar, wind, and energy storage projects between 2019 and 2022. This pipeline can then be dropped down to NextEra Energy Partners, which keeps the current dividend yield of 4% growing long term. Management says it has visibility to 12% to 15% dividend growth through at least 2024. And given the growth of renewable energy production in the U.S., I think there are many years of dividend growth ahead. 

An innovative energy dividend

Hannon Armstrong is hard to nail down as an energy company because it plays so many different roles in financing renewable energy projects. The company has invested $144 million in preferred equity of wind projects in the U.S., owns $107 million of land under solar projects, and will even finance energy efficiency projects for government buildings. If financing is needed for renewable energy, Hannon Armstrong will find a way to get it done. 

The dividend of 4.7% is in line with competitors, but what I like about Hannon Armstrong is that it's not taking as much risk on the future growth of a specific type of renewable energy asset. Its pipeline of projects comes from a diverse set of industries, and the company will adapt to any market where it sees a need for capital and low-risk returns. The solar projects I mentioned, where Hannon Armstrong bought land under them, are a perfect example. 

As renewable energy evolves and new energy assets like energy storage and efficiency become a more valuable part of customers' needs, Hannon Armstrong will be there to offer financing that ultimately pays investors back with a great dividend. 

Slow and steady wins the race

The final renewable energy dividend on the list won't win any awards for flash, but it'll be about as stable as a company can be for the foreseeable future. Brookfield Renewable Partners owns 18,000 MW of capacity around the world, consisting primarily of hydroelectric power plants, but has an increasing portfolio of wind, solar, and energy storage facilities. 

Brookfield Renewable Partners operates a lot like the companies discussed above, buying assets and then paying a dividend based on the excess cash flow generated from long-term contracts to sell electricity to utilities. But the company is a little more conservative in its growth plans. Management aims to increase dividends by 5% to 9% annually, funded through organic cash flow growth and project development. Most renewable energy asset owners count on issuing new shares and debt to fund growth projects, which are accretive to the dividend, but this is a company that can grow organically. 

The 4.4% dividend yield isn't the biggest on the market, and the growth isn't expected to be as high as NextEra Energy Partners, but the stability of organic growth should be what investors focus on -- and is what makes this a great dividend to own no matter what is happening in the market. 

Great dividends in renewable energy

As utilities, companies, and consumers look for ways to use more renewable energy, the demand for companies financing projects is growing. That's where companies like NextEra Energy Partners, Hannon Armstrong, and Brookfield Renewable Partners play a big role in the industry's growth -- and for investors, they come with rock solid dividends as well.