Power and energy have been popular topics all year long for investors. Whether you drill for oil, mine coal, or produce the juice, enthusiasm for these stocks has stayed strong. Entergy (NYSE:ETR), which provides electricity primarily to four Southern states, has enjoyed this market enthusiasm and its stock is near all-time highs.

Results for the second quarter weren't breathtaking, but then we are talking about a utility company here, and one that had preannounced some info. Operating revenue climbed 9% and operating earnings were up 7%. Due to significant ongoing share buybacks, the company posted EPS growth of nearly 17%.

In the utility business, operating earnings climbed 27% as the company experienced slightly higher usage and higher unbilled revenue. The nuclear operating earnings were flat, and there was a decline in earnings from the commodity services business.

With valuations now at fairly high levels, the utility sector as a whole has probably seen its best days in terms of stock price appreciation. That said, Entergy could still be positioned to squeeze a bit more out of the business for its investors.

The company is the second-largest operator of nuclear power facilities in the country, and that could offer some long-term competitive advantages. Should coal and gas prices stay so high, nuclear power becomes an increasingly compelling option. What's more, the new energy bill offers some perks and incentives for operators of nuclear facilities that certainly won't hurt Entergy.

As you might expect with a utility company, things change slowly. Internal rates of return are improving, and the company as a whole seems to be committed to delivering shareholder value. But we're not talking about a rock'em-sock'em growth story.

While utility companies are known more for their dividend payments than their capital appreciation potential, Entergy shares have done quite well over the long haul. With the growing demand for electricity and an increasingly compliant regulatory environment, Entergy would seem to have further growth potential. Of course, with current valuations being what they are, someone buying today would do well not to expect double-digit stock appreciation every year.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).