The energy market is undergoing a massive transformation as nations around the globe shift away from carbon-based fuel sources to cleaner alternatives. However, a change that significant to a market that massive is unavoidably going to be slow. That's why the International Energy Agency still forecasts many years of rising demand for fossil fuels. It predicts oil demand will grow by another 7% by 2040 while natural gas consumption will increase by 29%.

Among the biggest beneficiaries of this expected volume growth will be the energy infrastructure companies that transport, process, store, and export all that oil and natural gas. Brookfield Infrastructure (NYSE:BIP)(NYSE:BIPC)Enbridge (NYSE:ENB), and TC Energy (NYSE:TRP) are leaders in the midstream sector, and should be great buys in 2021 and beyond.

A person in a hard hat looking through an empty pipeline.

Image source: Getty Images.

Bulking up on its energy business

Brookfield Infrastructure is a globally diversified company focused on utilities, energy midstream, transportation, and data. Its assets generate predictable cash flows supported by long-term contracts and government-regulated rates. That gives it the money to pay an above-average dividend -- yielding 3.5% at current share prices -- and expand its operations.

The company has been taking advantage of the volatility in the energy market in recent years to acquire high-quality infrastructure businesses at attractive valuations. For example, Brookfield recently completed its acquisition of Canadian oil infrastructure company Inter Pipeline in a 16 billion Canadian dollar ($12.7 billion) deal. It has also purchased midstream assets in Canada, a U.S. LNG exporter, and a natural gas pipeline in Brazil.

Combined with its existing assets, these recent additions have positioned Brookfield to grow its cash flow per share by 6% to 9% per year. Fueling the company's growth is a combination of higher rates on existing contracts, higher volumes, and expansion projects. Meanwhile, management anticipates additional upside of up to 5% per year as the company makes further accretive acquisitions. Those catalysts will support its plan to increase its dividend at a 5% to 9% annual rate.

A fully fueled growth plan

Enbridge is a leading North American energy infrastructure company. It operates liquids pipelines, gas transmission and distribution systems, and renewable power assets. These businesses also generate very durable cash flows. Enbridge uses those funds to pay an attractive dividend, yielding 6.6% at current share prices, and finance expansion projects.

Enbridge has the financial capacity to invest up to CA$6 billion ($4.8 billion) per year in expanding its operations. It currently has CA$11 billion ($8.7 billion) of existing secured growth projects in its backlog that it should finish by 2023. In addition, it recently agreed to acquire a leading U.S. oil export facility for $3 billion. These investments will fuel annual cash flow growth in the 5% to 7% range in the near term. Meanwhile, Enbridge has a multibillion-dollar slate of development projects, including pipeline expansions and renewable energy projects. These investments should give Enbridge the power to continue boosting its dividend, which it has done in each of the last 26 years.

A powerful expansion program

TC Energy is another large-scale North American energy infrastructure company. It operates a leading natural gas pipeline network, some liquids pipelines, and a power business that includes a large nuclear energy plant. These assets also generate stable cash flows backed by long-term contracts and government-regulated rates. That helps support TC Energy's 5.8%-yielding dividend.

The company has a massive CA$21 billion ($16.6 billion) secured capital program that will provide visible growth through 2025. That should give TC Energy the power to continue boosting its dividend. Management aims to increase the payout by 5% to 7% annually over the next several years, adding to a dividend growth streak that's now at 21 straight years. Meanwhile, TC Energy is evaluating new opportunities to participate in the energy transition to a lower-carbon future. The investments it makes in that arena could supply it with the power to continue increasing its dividend payouts for years to come.

Long-term growth ahead

Brookfield Infrastructure, Enbridge, and TC Energy all operate stable energy infrastructure assets. That provides them with steady cash flows that they use to pay attractive dividends and fund expansion opportunities. This strategy positions all three to continue growing their cash flows and dividends for years to come, making them great energy stocks to buy for 2021 and beyond.

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.