“For the past 89 consecutive years, the dividend payment has been an important part of our commitment to deliver attractive total returns to shareholders,” Lynn Good, president and CEO of Duke, said. “The strength of our cash flows and balance sheet provides valuable financial flexibility to continue growing the dividend.”

Duke’s dividend plans reveal a potentially strong move in the sector, despite the underperformance in utilities so far this year and the greater chance for a Federal Reserve interest rate hike ahead.

“Longer-term, in a rising-rate environment, we would expect flat returns at best for utilities companies and underperformance when compared with other equity sectors,” according to Morningstar analyst Robert Goldsborough. “Higher rates generally make fixed-income instruments more attractive on a relative basis and make bondlike equities, such as utilities companies, less attractive.”

Utilities Select Sector SPDR

For more information on the utilities sector, visit our utilities category.

Max Chen contributed to this article.