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One Size Fits All? Policy Instruments Should Fit the Segments of Target Groups

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Energy Policy, p.34- (2006)



Diffusion of innovations, Early market and mainstream market, Policy instruments


In order to meet the Kyoto CO2 reduction targets, technical innovations in the field of energy-efficiency must diffuse more rapidly into a larger market. However, markets develop gradually, especially if innovations are involved. Diffusion starts with the early market (innovators and early adopters), followed by the mainstream market (the early and late majority), and ends with the laggards. The actors in these markets differ in their willingness to adopt innovations; the early market actors have a visionary attitude, and the mainstream market actors are more pragmatic. In order to choose policy instruments that will most effectively influence these two markets within the target group of housing association, we addressed the following two questions. (1) What are the differences between the early and mainstream market actors from a behavioural-change point of view? (2) In what way do existing policy instruments differ in influencing the behaviour of these actors? We analyzed early market and mainstream decision-making behaviours, and how the active ingredients in policy instruments specifically target the characteristics of the two markets. Mainstream instruments should intervene as early as possible in the decision-making process and emphasize communication about advantages such as comfort and quality in addition to money and energy savings. Furthermore, they should present energy conservation as a solution to an actual problem. Instead of bureaucratic subsidy systems for the mainstream, the motto should be cash on the barrel-head. Early market actors are highly internally motivated, implying that early market interventions have to be challenging and facilitating.