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Wisconsin Energy Corporation (WEC), Dominion Resources, Inc. (D) – This Week in Utilities: Surprise Dividends and Coal Conversions

Wisconsin Energy Corporation (NYSE:WEC)Utilities were busy last week, making moves to maximize profit potential. With ahead of schedule dividend boosts, coal to biomass conversions, and more, here’s what you need to know to stay on top of your dividend stocks’ latest moves.

The early bird gets the dividend worm

Wisconsin Energy Corporation (NYSE:WEC) is putting dividend profits in investors’ pockets earlier than expected. The utility announced last week that is upping its distribution 12.5% starting in Q2 2013, instead of the previously planned Q1 2014. At current share prices, this represents a dividend yield increase from 3.14% to 3.54%.

“Today’s action by our board of directors is underscored by the company’s sound financial position and positive free cash flow,” said Chairman, President, and CEO Gale Klappa in a statement. “This marks yet another positive step toward making our dividend payout more competitive with our peers across the utility industry.”

Looking ahead, Wisconsin Energy Corporation (NYSE:WEC) also reaffirmed its dividend payout ratio goal of 65%-70% of earnings in 2017.

Weighing in on biomass

Dominion Resources, Inc. (NYSE:D) Energy brought on line the first of three biomass power plants expected to add around 153 MW of generation capacity to its operations. All three plants were previously coal-fired; with this latest conversion, they are fueled by waste-wood scraps from regional timber operations.

“Today marks another achievement guided by Dominion Resources, Inc. (NYSE:D)’s philosophy that balanced fuel diversity – from coal to natural gas to nuclear to renewables – leads to reasonable rates that best serve the needs and interests of customers and shareholders,” said Dominion Resources, Inc. (NYSE:D) Generation CEO David Christian in a statement.

The other two units are expected to come on line by 2014, with total conversion costs estimated at $165 billion.

Down with the old

NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE)‘s Florida Power and Light subsidiary cleared the way for its latest $1 billion power plant this week with a farewell wave and 450 pounds of explosives. The utility demolished a 60-year-old facility to clear a spot for its new 1,277 MW combined-cycle natural gas facility.

Source: Florida Power & Light

According to NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE), its “Clean Energy Center” will use 35% less fuel per MW-hour, cut carbon emissions in half, and reduce air pollution by more than 90%. With the old infrastructure out of the way, construction is expected to be completed in 2016.

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