NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The following companies from the utility industry span sectors such as electric-integrated, water, pipelines and gas distribution and have high-dividend yield and significant potential upside over the next 12 months. These companies are scheduled to release their quarterly earnings during the week.

To avoid risky equity plays in the current down market, investors should consider utility stocks, which are classic defensives with their above-average dividend yield. Since April 29, 2011, the utilities sector on the S&P 500 index edged up 0.02% compared to the industrial, financial and basic material sectors, which shed 10.6%, 9.7% and 6.6%, respectively.

These stocks have market capitalization above $1 billion and generate dividend yield in the range of 2.6% to 5.0%. According to analysts' estimates, these eight stocks are likely to generate 5% to 14% upside. On average, these stocks have a 42% buy rating and 53% hold rating.

The stocks are stacked based on dividend yield, lowest to highest.

8. Aqua America ( WTR), is a holding company for regulated utilities that provide water or wastewater services in Pennsylvania, Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Indiana, Virginia, Maine, Missouri, and Georgia. The company will report its second-quarter earnings on Wednesday.

On June 1, the company paid its regular quarterly cash dividend of 15.5 cents per share, up 6.9% from the dividend paid in June 2010. With a consecutive quarterly dividend history of 65 years, Aqua has a dividend yield of 2.62%.

The company is likely to report net income of $32.84 million, or 24 cents per share, compared to $29.78 million, or 22 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter, according to analysts polled by Bloomberg. For the quarter, sales are seen rising 6% to $189.14 million from $178.44 million in same quarter of 2010. Operating profit for the period is estimated at $71.28 million against $66.08 million in year-ago quarter. Cash flow per share for the quarter is estimated to soar by 88% to 49 cents from the year-ago quarter.

Of the 15 analysts covering the stock, 40% recommend a buy and 53% suggest a hold. Analysts polled by Bloomberg forecast the stock gaining an average 14% to $24.29 in the upcoming 12 months.

7. Northeast Utilities System ( NU), a public utility holding company, operating through its wholly owned utility subsidiaries, delivers energy to residential, commercial and industrial customers. Besides owning four subsidiaries, the company owns a number of unregulated businesses through its subsidiary NU Enterprises. Northeast Utilities will report its second-quarter results on Wednesday.

The company recently declared a quarterly dividend of 27.5 cents per share, payable Sept. 30, 2011. The annualized dividend amount of $1.10 per share represents an increase of $0.075 per share from the earlier dividend of $1.025, in effect since March 2010. The company has a dividend yield of 3.06%.

Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect NU to record sales of $1.13 billion for the second quarter compared to $1.11 billion a year ago. Net income for the quarter is seen increasing by 20% to $86.22 million or 48 cents per share from $71.95 million or 41 cents per share in the comparable quarter prior year. Operating profit is estimated to increase by 13% to $201 million, while cash flow per share is likely at $1.35 during the quarter.

Of the 15 analysts covering the stock, 33% suggest a buy and 60% rate a hold. Analysts polled by Bloomberg see the stock gaining an average 6.2% to $36.38 in the upcoming 12 months.

6. American Water Works ( AWK), a water and wastewater utility company, provides almost 15 million people with drinking water, wastewater and other water-related services in over 30 states and two Canadian provinces. Broadly, the company's operations are divided into two segments: Regulated Businesses and the Market-Based Operations. The company will release its second-quarter results on Wednesday.

The company paid its quarterly cash dividend of 21 cents per share on June 1, its eighth consecutive declaration since going public. The company also announced American Water Stock Direct, a dividend reinvestment and direct stock purchase plan that enables stockholders to reinvest cash dividends and purchase additional American Water common stock devoid of brokerage commission or service charge. Currently, AWK has a dividend yield of 3.1%.

Analysts' consensus estimates see American Water Works' second quarter 2011 net income increasing to $79.57 million or 46 cents per share from $72.75 million or 42 cents per share in the year-ago quarter. Sales are seen surging 5% to $705.22 million from $671.22 million in the second quarter of 2010. Cash flow per share is seen rising by 54% to $1.07 from the second quarter of 2010. Operating profit is estimated to rise by 6% to $206.25 million.

Of the 21 analysts covering the stock, 62% recommend a buy and the rest rate a hold. There are no sell ratings on the stock. Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect the stock to gain an average 14.1% to $32.00 in the upcoming 12 months.

5. Alliant Energy ( LNT), a regulated investor-owned public utility holding company, provides regulated electricity and natural gas services to one million electric and 412,000 natural gas customers in the Midwest through its two public utility subsidiaries. The company has three operating segments: electric, gas and other operations. Alliant is scheduled to release its second quarter 2011 results on Thursday.

The company recently declared its quarterly dividend of 42.5 cents per share, payable Aug. 15, 2011. With a dividend history of 263 consecutive quarters, the company has a current dividend yield of 4.14%. Annualized dividend of $1.7 per share indicates a 12% increase and also places the dividend within its target payout ratio of 60% to 70% of utility earnings. Additionally, in mid-May, the company's utility subsidiaries declared preferred stock dividends in the range of 40.6 cents to $1.10 per share.

Analysts polled by Bloomberg see the company reporting second-quarter net income of $54.13 million, or 49 cents per share, compared to $49.30 million, or 43 cents per share, a year ago. Sales are seen rising by 4% to $768.33 million from $741.60 million in the same quarter of the prior year. Gross margin is seen expanding to 61.80% from 50.71% in year-ago quarter. Cash flow per share for the quarter is seen at a strong $1.07, while return on assets is seen expanding by 16% to 1.34%.

Of the 11 analysts covering the stock, 45% recommend a buy and the remaining rate a hold. There are no sell ratings on the stock. Analysts polled by Bloomberg foresee the stock gaining an average 8.3% to $43.00 in the upcoming 12 months.

4. UniSource Energy ( UNS) is a holding company that operates through its subsidiaries in three segments: Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP), UNS Gas and UNS Electric. TEP is an electric utility that serves Tucson, Ariz., while the remaining two provide gas and electric services. The company will release its second quarter results on Thursday.

On June 6, 2011, the company paid its shareholders second-quarter dividend of 42 cents per share, compared to 39 cents paid during 2010. With a current dividend yield of 4.4%, the company targets to reach a payout level of almost 60% of UNS net income.

Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect UniSource to record second-quarter net income of $31 million or 75 cents per share, vs. $28.72 million or 73 cents per share a year ago. Sales are expected to rise 4% to $352 million from $337.82 million in the year-ago quarter.

Of the 6 analysts covering the stock, 33% recommend a buy and the rest suggest a hold. There are no sell ratings on the stock. Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect the stock to gain an average 5.0% to $38.63 in the upcoming 12 months.

3. CenterPoint Energy ( CNP), a public utility holding company, operates through two wholly owned subsidiaries in seven segments: electric transmission and distribution, natural gas distribution, competitive natural gas sales and services, interstate pipelines, field services and other operations. The company will release its second-quarter results on Thursday.

CenterPoint recently declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of 19.75 cents per share, payable Sept. 9, 2011. In January 2011, for the sixth consecutive year, the company raised its dividend from 19.5 cents to 19.75 cents per share. Currently, CenterPoint has a dividend yield of 4.46%.

Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect the company to record second-quarter net income of $100.78 million, or 22 cents per share, vs. $79 million, or 20 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago. Sales are expected to soar 12% to $1.97 billion from $1.76 billion in the comparable quarter of the prior year. Cash flow per share is seen at 91 cents. Operating profit is seen rising by 12% to $294.5 million during the quarter.

Of the 16 analysts covering the stock, 63% recommend a buy and the rest suggest a hold. There are no sell ratings on the stock. Analysts polled by Bloomberg see the stock gaining an average 5.9% to $20.72 in the upcoming 12 months.

2. Westar Energy ( WR), an electric utility company in Kansas, engages in providing electric generation, transmission and distribution services to approximately 687,000 customers. It also supplies electric energy at wholesale to municipalities and electric cooperatives in Kansas. Westar has 6,756 megawatt of generating capacity in service. The company will release its second-quarter results on Friday.

On July 1, the company paid a regular quarterly dividend of 32 cents per share on its common stock. In addition, it paid quarterly dividends on its 4.25%, 4.5% and 5% series preferred stocks. The annualized dividend of $1.28 per share represents a 3% increase from the dividend payout in 2010. Currently, Westar has a dividend yield of 4.73%.

Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect Westar to record second-quarter net income of $52.67 million, or 44 cents per share. Sales are seen soaring by 2% to $503 million from $495.18 million earlier. Gross margin is likely to expand to 73.00% from 72.31%, while operating profit is estimated to rise to $124 million from $120.99 million in the year-ago period. Cash flow per share is estimated to come in at 45 cents. Return on equity and assets is seen expanding by 10% and 14% to 8.60% and 2.60%, respectively.

Of the 14 analysts covering the stock, 43% recommend a buy while 50% suggest a hold. Analysts polled by Bloomberg see the stock gaining an average 6.6% to $27.57 over the next 12 months.

1. Hawaiian Electric Industries ( HE), a holding company, operating though its principal subsidiaries engages in the business of electric utility, banking and other services in Hawaii. The company's electric subsidiary Hawaiian Electric Company and its two operating utility subsidiaries are regulated electric public utilities. The company will release its second quarter 2011 results on WednesdayAugust 3.

On June 14, the company paid its regular quarterly cash dividend of 31 cents per share, amounting to an annual dividend of $1.24 per share. Paying dividends continually since 1901, the company's current dividend yield is 5.0%.

Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect it to record second-quarter net income of $30.9 million or 33 cents per share, vs. $29.74 million or 31 cents per share in the same quarter of the prior year. Sales are seen soaring by 5% to $691.33 million from $655.66 million earlier. Operating profit is seen increasing by 7%% to $68.20 million while EBITDA is seen rising by 2% to $106.5 million. Cash flow per share is seen swinging to positive 72 cents from negative 14 cents in the first quarter of 2011.

Of the six analysts covering the stock, 17% recommend a buy while 67% suggest a hold. Analysts polled by Bloomberg see the stock gaining an average 7.0% to $25.00 in the upcoming 12 months.

>>To see these stocks in action, visit the 8 High-Dividend Utility Stocks to Watch portfolio on Stockpickr.