NextEra Energy, Inc. (NEE), Duke Energy Corp (DUK): Three Things to Know Before You Buy This Stock

When I was a kid, my dad constantly reminded my siblings and me to turn off the lights when we went out of a room. I remember more than once he’d informed us that he didn’t work for the electric company. As I grew older and wiser I found out that you didn’t have to work for the electric company to benefit from all those lights being left on. Instead, you could own stock in the electric company and enjoy a nice stream of dividends as the company profited from keeping those lights on.

Duke Energy Corp

One such company that should be on any income seeking investor’s radar is Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK). Based in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK) has been keeping the lights on for more than 150 years. However, before considering whether to buy stock in the company, here’s three very important things you need to know.

It’s getting gassy
Duke is the largest utility in the U.S. by almost any metric. It has more than $100 billion in assets including 58 gigawatts of generating capacity all design to power the lives of its 7.2 million customers. That’s more than nuclear kingpin Exelon Corporation (NYSE:EXC)‘s nearly 35 gigawatts of generating capacity as well as its 6.6 million customers. It’s also larger than wind-powered NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE)‘s more than 41 gigawatts of capacity as well as its 4.6 million customers.

What’s important here is that Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK) is really cleaning up that generating portfolio by shifting away from coal. However, it’s shifting much more into natural gas generation as opposed to renewables. By 2015 the company plans to cut coal’s portion of its generation portfolio from 55% in 2005 to 38% by 2015. Meanwhile the natural gas portion will go from just 5% all the way to 24% over that same time frame. Given the amount of natural gas we’ve discovered, and its low price, that move makes a lot of sense.

Merger with Progress
The other move that made a lot of sense is the company’s merger with Progress Energy. According to Duke, the purpose was to create a low-risk, predominantly regulated business to generate reliable earnings and cash flow. Part of the draw in acquiring Progress is that 100% of its earnings are regulated against just 77% for Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK). Now the combined company isn’t just the country’s largest utility, but 85% of the earnings are regulated. For a dividend-seeking investor, you’ll want the stable earnings from the more regulated business mix.