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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

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

Kids’ screen time up 50% during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When the coronavirus lockdowns started in March, kidstech firm SuperAwesome found that screen time was up 50%. Nearly a year later, that percentage hasn't budged, according to new figures from the firm.

Why it matters: For most parents, pre-pandemic expectations around screen time are no longer realistic. The concern now has shifted from the number of hours in front of screens to the quality of screen time.