Same same, but different: Explaining heterogeneity among potential photovoltaic adopters in Germany using milieu segmentation


Adoption of new technologies necessitates changes in behaviours, attitudes, and social norms that cannot be sufficiently explained by a single predictor or group of predictors, particularly in heterogeneous populations.

Aiming to add a greater understanding of intention to adopt Rooftop Photovoltaic (PV), this paper utilised an established population segmentation tool, the Sinus-Milieus and the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) to account for population heterogeneity of the sample of German homeowners (n = 1800).

The results of our study confirm the explanatory power of Sinus-Milieus in understanding the heterogeneity of PV adoption. While our global SEM demonstrated the influence of the determinants of TPB on adoption intention, the applied multi-group-analysis revealed significant deviations in the relative influence of the pathways explaining intention to adopt across different milieugroups. In particular, milieugroups within the same social status and/or value groupings exhibited significant differences in the influence of attitudes and social norms on adoption intention. Furthermore, milieugroups were found to significantly differ in terms of the reported level of adoption intention according to the Kruskal–Wallis H-test. The same results were obtained for the determinants social norm, attitude, environmental concern, and novelty seeking. Overall, this study makes an important contribution to previous research in this area. The Sinus-Milieu approach offers an alternative segmentation method that addresses the limitations of methods used to date.

Our findings confirm the relevance of considering potential adopters as a heterogeneous group in terms of overall lifestyle characteristics. Tailoring communication strategies to target the underlying motivations of specific milieus can lead to more effective interventions.


The publication was written by Luise Vibrans (Leipzig University), Emily Schulte (Leipzig University), Karyn Morrissey (Technical University of Denmark (DTU)), Thomas Bruckner (Leipzig University) und Fabian Scheller (Technical University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt (THWS) / Center for Applied Energy Research (CAE)) and published in Energy Research & Social Science (Volume 103, 2023).

SINUS-Institut contributed survey data and information on Sinus-Milieus.


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