A limited set of studies have addressed how actors shape the directionality of sustainability transitions. Building on recent institutional work literature, this article explores how specific institutional activities developed by both niche and regime actors across spatial levels shape the directions of transition. We examine two cases with contrasting directionalities: solar PV in the provinces of Inner Mongolia and Jiangsu, both located in China. The former developed PV as part of the large-scale centralised power system and the latter focused on PV development as a core element of an alternative distributed form of power generation. We investigate provincial differences as well as the state-provincial dynamics. The article, therefore, develops a multi-scalar understanding of institutional work. Our research findings suggest three aspects have been key for understanding the divergent patterns: the specific portfolios of enacted institutional work, the type of interactions between niche and regime actors and the selective leveraging of institutional conditions at national by provincial actors. Based on these findings we formulate four propositions and propose a novel conceptual framework to investigate how actors shape the directionality of sustainability transition.

Copyright © 2021 Johan Schot