May 7 (Reuters) - Duke Energy beat Wall Street estimates for first-quarter profit on Tuesday on higher electricity rates as the utility saw increasing residential and commercial customer demand in its U.S. sun-belt service territory, executives with the company said on Tuesday.

Duke's customer base grew 2.4% in both the Carolinas and Florida in the first three months of the year compared to the same period in 2023, while the company's overall commercial and industrial load grew 1%, driven largely by data center businesses, executives said.

Electric vehicles, manufacturing and data centers supporting artificial intelligence technology is expected to drive up electricity usage and boost earnings for utilities.

Duke, which provides power to about 8.4 million customers in the Carolinas, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, also serves states with rapidly-growing populations. Its shares rose 1%.

"Our jurisdictions are experiencing unprecedented growth from population migration and economic development," CEO Lynn Good said.

Income from Duke's electric utilities segment jumped 29% to $1.02 billion.

"We have a clear path forward that will deliver sustainable value and 5% to 7% earnings growth over the next five years," said CEO Lynn Good.

Peers Southern Co and American Electric Power also surpassed expectations for quarterly profit.

The company reaffirmed its full-year adjusted profit forecast of $5.85 to $6.10 per share, compared with analysts' expectations of $5.97 per share, according to LSEG data.

The Charlotte, North Carolina-based utility posted an adjusted profit of $1.44 per share for the quarter, beating estimates of $1.38 per share, thanks to improved weather and favorable rate case impacts.

Regulated utilities use rate case proceedings to determine the amount that customers need to pay for the electricity, natural gas, private water, and steam services provided by them. (Reporting by Vallari Srivastava in Bengaluru and Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Nick Zieminski)