The energy sector is large and varied, with many different ways to invest in it. If you are examining the space today, you should take a close look at Chevron (CVX 0.09%), TotalEnergies (TTE 1.46%), and Devon Energy (DVN -0.24%). Each offers a unique way to invest in a volatile area of the market that is facing material long-term change. Here's a quick rundown of this energy trio.

1. Big, boring, and focused on oil

Chevron is an integrated energy giant with operations that span from the upstream (drilling for oil and natural gas), to the midstream (transporting energy in things like pipelines), all the way to the downstream (chemicals and refining). It also has a global footprint. All of this means that its business is fairly diversified even though energy prices will still dominate its top and bottom lines.

Here's the bigger takeaway, though. Chevron has long focused on ensuring that it can continue to reward dividend investors through the entire energy cycle. It has increased its dividend annually for 36 consecutive years. That's an impressive feat given the often dramatic price swings in oil and gas over that span.

Furthermore, it is prepared for the next oil downturn thanks to a rock-solid balance sheet, with a debt-to-equity ratio of just 0.15 or so (the lowest among its closest peers). The stock currently yields 3.5%, which isn't exactly high, historically speaking, but if you are looking for an energy investment that won't let you down, Chevron has some serious bona fides to offer.

2. Hedging your bets

The big problem that some conservative investors might have with Chevron is that it has largely chosen to focus on carbon fuels despite the fact that the world is starting to shift toward cleaner alternatives. The world still needs oil and natural gas and will continue to need them for a long time to come, so this isn't terrible, but peer TotalEnergies has opted to start changing with the globe today. That said, BP and Shell have also started to invest more heavily in clean energy. The difference is that the latter two energy giants cut their dividends at about the same time they announced their strategic moves. TotalEnergies has grown its dividend despite the changes it is making to its business.

Like Chevron, TotalEnergies is a global integrated energy giant. And while it has more debt on its balance sheet, it also happens to carry a lot more cash. So the end result is that TotalEnergies is financially strong enough to muddle through industry downturns as well, even though the added debt does increase its risk. However, for long-term investors worried about the ESG risks the energy industry is facing, TotalEnergies' investment in electricity and renewable power may give it the edge over Chevron. TotalEnergies' dividend yield is roughly 4.3% today (note that U.S. investors have to pay French taxes on the dividends).

3. Swinging for the fences

Chevron and TotalEnergies are both fairly conservative ways to invest in the energy space. What if you're willing to take on more risk and hitch your wagon to the inherent ups and downs of energy prices? In that case, you should dig into Devon Energy. This company is focused on U.S. upstream drilling, so oil and natural gas are basically the only drivers of the top and bottom lines. As energy prices go up and down, so, too, will Devon's financial performance.

But there's an important twist here. The energy company recently started to tie its dividend payment to its performance via a variable dividend model. So when energy prices are high, investors will collect a large dividend, and when energy prices are low, the dividend will be low, too. So far, investors have reacted by buying heavily, pushing the stock up faster than either Chevron or TotalEnergies in the good times, and, as energy prices cool off, selling Devon more heavily. Things could change, including the company's dividend policy, but at this point Devon looks like it is very sensitive to energy prices for those who are looking for that type of exposure.

Something will likely click

The first big takeaway here is that there's no "right" way to invest in the energy sector. However, if you want broad-based exposure, Chevron is a good, focused, and fairly conservative option. Those seeking a company that's starting to add in some investment in clean energy, however, will probably prefer TotalEnergies. But if you have strong convictions about energy prices, Devon Energy will likely give you the greatest opportunity to play energy price moves.