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Solar photovoltaic elements installations seen at the Chernobyl power plant. Photo: Pavlo Conchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Worldwide investment in renewables and other low-carbon energy sources dipped 8% last year to $332 billion, according to the consultancy Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Why it matters: New year-end data show that the decline was driven by a sharp 24% drop in spending on solar projects, driven by 2 forces:

  • The ongoing drop in capital costs for the technology, fueled last year by a glut of panels on the market.
  • Policy changes in China, the world's biggest market, that lowered federal support and helped cut investment there by around half to $40 billion.

What they're saying: In an accompanying statement, BNEF analyst Jenny Chase notes that 2018 was a "difficult year" for panel manufacturers and developers in China, but adds...

"However, we estimate that global PV installations increased from 99GW in 2017 to approximately 109GW in 2018, as other countries took advantage of the technology’s fiercely improved competitiveness."

The big picture: Worldwide investment in clean energy has soared over the past 15 years from less than $62 billion in 2004 to consistently far above $300 billion over the last half-decade.

  • But while renewables deployment is surging, it's happening alongside rising global energy demand and growing fossil fuel use too.
  • That means the renewables surge isn't yet big enough to start sending global CO2 emissions downward.

By the numbers: A few other snapshots of the global picture...

  • Offshore wind investment grew by 14% to nearly $26 billion, while onshore wind grew slightly to around $101 billion.
  • Corporate R&D spending slipped 6% to roughly $21 billion, but government R&D rose 4% to $15 billion.
  • "Global venture capital and private equity investment jumped 127% to $9.2 billion, the highest since 2010," BNEF says.

Go deeper: See more of the data here.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New data from South Africa suggests the Omicron variant spreads more than twice as quickly as the Delta variant, and that immunity from prior infection doesn't appear to protect a person very well against Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The findings are extremely preliminary, and there are still many open questions about how well vaccines work against the variant. But these initial breadcrumbs of data are helping the world begin to understand what it's up against.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
3 hours ago - Technology

AI could end foreign-language subtitles

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

AI companies are developing methods to translate and synthesize voices in ads, movies and TV.

Why it matters: The advances in voice synthesis could help fix bad movie dubbing — and they come as international content is becoming increasingly important to studios and streaming platforms as part of the globalization of entertainment.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 12 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.