Southern California Edison officials say their 4.3 million customers can expect as many as 44 days of rolling blackouts this summer. May could be an especially critical month, because some power plants are routinely shut down then for maintenance.

Starting June 1st, they will give advance warnings of where the power will be cut off. They will give each customer a number between 1 and 114, that assigns them to a specific group and will print these numbers on customers? bills to let them know when they?ll be experiencing blackouts. They will also announce these numbers on radio and TV.

The 114 groups of customers are spread out over the 10 counties served by Edison. Within each group are varying numbers of circuits adding up to 100 megawatts. If the independent systems operator, who manages power for the state, asks for 500 megawatts to be cut, 5 of the groups will lose power for an hour. ?We have grouped circuits in such a fashion that all the circuits in one group are widely scattered to minimize the impact on one community,? says Edison spokesman Gil Alexander.

Alexander said Edison has had the groups organized for about a year, but hasn?t made them public for fear that criminals would find out where vulnerable areas were.

Ron Schlichting, of the California Energy Commission, says there is an expected shortfall this summer of as much as 5,000 megawatts?enough to power 5 million average homes. In the winter, when the state was burning only 32,000 megawatts, there were still power shortages. This summer they expect to use 61,125 megawatts of electricity.

The state will get some relief in July, when 4 new power plants will go online. ?It?s not enough, but it will help,? says Schlichting.

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