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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

41 mins ago - Health

U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record

Expand chart
Data: COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

The United States reported 88,452 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The country confirmed 1,049 additional deaths due to the virus, and there are over 46,000 people currently being hospitalized, suggesting the U.S. is experiencing a third wave heading into the winter months.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day.
  2. Politics: Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president" — Space Force's No. 2 general tests positive for coronavirus.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. Sports: MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
  5. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

The norms around science and politics are cracking

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Crafting successful public health measures depends on the ability of top scientists to gather data and report their findings unrestricted to policymakers.

State of play: But concern has spiked among health experts and physicians over what they see as an assault on key science protections, particularly during a raging pandemic. And a move last week by President Trump, via an executive order, is triggering even more worries.