Assisted by warmer weather and higher rates, Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) reported Thursday a stronger-than-expected third-quarter profit.

The Minneapolis-based company posted net earnings of $312 million, or 67 cents a share, compared with $221 million, or 48 cents a share, in the same quarter last year.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned 62 cents a share, beating the Street’s view of 54 cents.

Revenue for the electricity provider was $2.63 billion, up from $1.85 billion a year ago, narrowly ahead of average analyst estimates polled by Thomson Reuters of $2.69 billion.

Quarterly gains were attributed by the company to warmer-than-usual temperatures, in comparison to cooler-than-normal weather in 2009, and rate increases.

Xcel CEO Richard C. Kelly said the company was “pleased” with the results, noting gains unrelated to weather helped boost earnings, driven by Xcel's “ongoing investments” in its system.

“Operationally, our system reliability remains strong despite severe weather and unseasonably warm temperatures,” he said. “While we anticipate the partial reversal of the timing impacts of seasonal rates in the fourth quarter, our year to date earnings continue to outpace last year.”

Reflecting the optimistic outlook, Xcel said it anticipates fiscal 2010 earnings to land in the upper half of its earlier range of $1.55 to $1.65 a share.