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Photo: Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for National Clean Energy Summit

I caught up Wednesday with Ernest Moniz, President Obama’s former energy secretary, to talk about California’s landmark new electricity policy calling for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045.

The bottom line: Moniz, a widely respected energy expert and nuclear physicist, praised the law but said it faces two big challenges: Ensuring reliable electricity and maintaining cooperative land use.

Driving the news: California’s legislators passed this week legislation mandating 100% of its electricity come from carbon-free sources by 2045, and a renewable-specific target of 60% by 2030. It’s likely to soon become law.

“Here you have the fifth largest economy in the world saying we’re going to a carbon-free electricity sector in roughly 25 years. That is a very, very big deal.”
— Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz
Moniz outlined two challenges California will face:

1) Reliable electricity: As the share of variable renewable-energy resources, particularly wind and solar, increases from the current 32% of California’s electricity share to 60% within 12 years, storage will be key:

  • “Batteries clearly are making a tremendous impact already when talking about hours of storage,” Moniz said. “But, what about when you need that backup for weeks or months. How are we going to handle that?”

2) "Not in my backyard": Wind and solar have “low energy density,” given it takes a lot of land to generate a comparatively smaller amount of power in contrast to, say, nuclear or natural gas power plants.

  • The idea of NIMBY — not in my backyard — opposition has long been a staple of energy projects of all types, renewable energy included.
  • Ensuring cooperative relationships with landowners, environmental groups and other stakeholders will be key to ensure projects — and the power lines moving the power — can be built.

The big picture: “We’re talking, here, a deployment on an unparalleled scale,” Moniz said.

Go deeper

27 mins ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.