A company’s ability to achieve long-term sustained value requires clarity of focus, a sound plan and an organizational culture of innovation and engagement. At AEP, that is our commitment. Our strong performance in 2014 demonstrates we are delivering on that commitment. Our understanding of the social and economic value of electricity to our service territory and society at large underpin our strategy to achieve the level of operational and financial performance that will be required of the utility of the future. Our mission is to enhance the customer experience, deliver fair returns to our shareholders, meet our obligations to our lenders, and engage employees. By doing this we are also able to fulfill our environmental and social commitments.
In 2014, AEP delivered solid performance. Our focus on infrastructure investments in our core regulated businesses and our employees’ success in identifying sustainable cost savings resulted in AEP being among the top five best performing utility stocks in 2014. We believe our track record demonstrates we are well-positioned to be a premium regulated electric utility that is attractive to investors.
Our emphasis on executing our strategy, engaging employees in continuous improvement, and exercising fiscal and strategic discipline was rewarded in the marketplace in 2014. AEP shareholders received a 35 percent total return, including dividends, compared with the 31 percent total shareholder return of our peers in the S&P 500 Electric Utilities Index and a total return of nearly 14 percent in the S&P 500. Our annual dividend increased 6 percent and we continue to target a 60 percent to 70 percent dividend payout ratio.
We reaffirmed our guidance range of $3.40 to $3.60 per share for 2015, with a 4 percent to 6 percent annual earnings growth rate. To achieve this, we will continue to focus on growth in our regulated businesses, efficiently allocating capital while maintaining O&M discipline, and continue moving forward with our continuous improvement initiatives.