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Executive Summary

A Little Growth Goes a Long Way

By Roger S. Conrad on Mar. 10, 2016

Last Week, the US Dept of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) held its annual Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, DC. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), former Vice President Al Gore and Dept. of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz got most of the attention. But the real stars were hundreds of new technologies on display with the potential to dramatically enhance the grid’s efficiency, reliability and affordability.

Energy utilities will be the ultimate beneficiaries of these advances. Still able to access low-cost capital and armed with regulators’ support, dozens of electric companies have stepped up investment in transmission and distribution systems, as well as renewable energy and storage solutions. These investments boost utilities’ rate base and, by extension, earnings and dividends.

Utilities’ biggest growth opportunities come from growing demand for renewable energy and low-cost natural gas—topics that we explored at length in the February issue of Conrad’s Utility Investor.

Regulated electric and gas utilities historically have posted annual earnings growth in the low single digits; these trends, coupled with the innovations in energy storage, should enable some of our favorite names to increase their cash flow and dividends at an accelerated rate.

All of our Portfolio holdings have reported fourth-quarter results, as have most of the names in our coverage universe. This month’s update to the Utility Report Card has all the details and our latest assessment of more than 200 essential-service companies. We also raised our proprietary Quality Grades on nine stocks and downgraded 11.

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