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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 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/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 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.

Biden Cabinet confirmation schedule: When to watch hearings

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The first hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet nominations begin on Tuesday, with testimony from his picks to lead the departments of State, Homeland and Defense.

Why it matters: It's been a slow start for a process that usually takes place days or weeks earlier for incoming presidents. The first slate of nominees will appear on Tuesday before a Republican-controlled Senate, but that will change once the new Democratic senators-elect from Georgia are sworn in.