Energy is essential for human societies. Energy systems, though, are also associated with several adverse environmental effects. So far societies have been unable to successfully change their energy systems in a way that addresses environmental and health concerns. Lack of policy consensus often resulted in so-called 'stop-go' policies, which were identified as some of the most important barriers regarding successful energy transitions. The lack of policy consensus and coherent long-term strategies may result from a lack of knowledge of energy systems' meso-level dynamics. The meso-level involves the dynamic behaviour of the individual system elements and the coupling of individual technologies, resulting in interdependencies and regimes. Energy systems are at the meso-level characterised by two typical aspects, i.e. dynamics driven by interactions between actors, and heterogeneous characteristics of actors. These aspects give rise to the ineffectiveness of traditional energy policies, which is illustrated with examples from the transport sector and household electricity consumption. We found that analysis of energy systems at the meso-level helps to better understand energy systems. To resolve persistent policy issues, the traditional 'one size fits all' energy policies are not sufficient. In order to tackle the difficult issues, 'redesign of system organisation', 'target group approach', or 'target group induced system re-orientation' are needed. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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