Never underestimate the power of dividends. For example, consider the S&P 500 index. Since 2000, it has increased by a little over 150%. But if you include reinvested dividends, the S&P 500's total return is nearly twice as high at 280%. Dividends have a huge impact on how much investors make over the long run. The additional benefits often are even more spectacular with individual stocks.

There are plenty of great dividend stocks on the market. Different investors could find different dividend stocks more to their liking. But if I could buy only one dividend stock right now, it would be Brookfield Renewable (NYSE:BEP) (NYSE:BEPC).

Solar panels and wind turbines

Image source: Getty Images.

A rose by any other name

Technically, Brookfield Renewable doesn't claim to pay a dividend. With its roots as a limited partnership (LP), the company prefers calling the money it returns to shareholders a distribution. But as Shakespeare wrote, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

I think most investors would agree that Brookfield Renewable's distribution smells sweet indeed. The renewable energy company has increased its distribution by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% over the last 20 years. It's in a strong position to continue boosting its payout for a long time to come. 

You might be wondering, "What's the yield?" The answer is a little more complicated than you'd expect. There are actually two ways to buy Brookfield Renewable, and they offer different distribution yields.

For most of its history, the company was strictly a limited partnership and went by the name Brookfield Renewable Partners. And it's still an LP trading under the ticker BEP. Its distribution yield currently stands at 2.94%.

Earlier this year, though, the company created Brookfield Renewable Corporation. It's structured as a traditional corporation and trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker BEPC. This renewable energy stock offers a distribution yield of 2.27%.

There's only one underlying business. The new stock listed this year was a way for Brookfield Renewable to make itself more attractive to investors who didn't want to deal with some of the tax hassles of owning part of an LP. BEP and BEPC pay the same distribution amount. Their yields are different only because their share prices are different. 

More than just a dividend

Sure, you can find plenty of stocks that provide much higher dividend yields than Brookfield Renewable. But the reason I really like it so much is that it provides more than just a dividend (or distribution, if you prefer).

Brookfield Renewable is also a growth machine. The company has delivered an annualized average total return of 18% since 2000, three times the total return of the S&P 500. Part of that total return was due to its distributions, but most of it stemmed from share price appreciation. Brookfield Renewable expects to provide total returns over the long run of around 15%.

My view is that the company's growth prospects are about as solid as you're going to find. Renewable energy isn't just here to stay; it's destined to enjoy even greater adoption in the future. Countries around the world have committed to reducing carbon emissions over the next few decades. President-elect Joe Biden has made carbon reduction in the U.S. a top priority. These efforts make renewable energy production a must-have.

What makes renewable energy even more attractive is that it's cost-effective. Solar and wind power is now the cheapest source of bulk energy generation.

Brookfield Renewable is a shoo-in to generate tremendous growth thanks to these tailwinds. Its current capacity tops 19 gigawatts. The company has another 18 gigawatts of capacity in its development pipeline. It is betting big on solar power, which I think is a really smart wager.

Wise advice

David Gardner, a co-founder of The Motley Fool along with his brother Tom, shared some wise advice at the beginning of this year. He tweeted, "Make your portfolio reflect the best vision for our future." I couldn't agree more with this view.

I think that Brookfield Renewable helps make my portfolio better reflect the best vision for our future. That vision includes clean energy and a healthy environment. And Brookfield Renewable's strong growth prospects and sweet dividends make the future for my portfolio look even brighter.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.