On December 23, 2022, a dangerously cold winter storm caused by a plunging jet stream across North America hit the US Upper Midwest and Northeast.1 Temperatures fell as low as –46°C (50°F),2 putting critical energy infrastructure at risk. Gas wells froze, causing the worst one-day fall in US natural gas output in more than a decade,3 and pushing natural gas prices above USD 100 in Washington D.C. and parts of New England by Christmas Eve.4
This harsh winter storm was a fresh reminder of how today’s energy infrastructure is struggling amid more frequent extreme weather events that cut off customers from supply and cause large price shocks. The rise in such events has catapulted the issue of energy security and energy efficiency into living rooms, where, until recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus had been on setting up Alexa smart home devices and Netflix streaming.
Climate change is of course not the only driving factor behind an increased interest in building energy efficiency. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022,5 Europeans have seen the picture of reliable and affordable energy supply fading in the rearview mirror. With politicians making frantic attempts to secure new natural gas supplies and floating liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals, it has become clear that there is no silver bullet for the European energy crisis. Although concerningly high winter temperatures in Europe6 helped to avoid the worst-case scenario in the short-term, energy security will remain under threat without improvements in efficient energy use.