This paper examines conditions and pathways that explain variation in the adoption of renewable energy (RE) in Nigeria's 36 states based on a fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis. Using three analytical lenses proposed by the multi-level socio-technical theory (niches, regimes, and landscapes), we examine RE adoption in these states. While all three lenses explain variation to some extent, a combination of regime and landscape characteristics, enables states to overcome dependence on oil while triggering the adoption of RE. States with high income and a regime featuring institutions and coalitions supporting transitions establish themselves as pioneers. States with medium/low income and a regime characterised by a weak pro-RE political coalition support emerge as laggards. Hence we conclude that the role of the regime and particularly political actors therein, is central in energy transition processes among Nigerian states. This has implications for future transition attempts in Nigeria and developing (rentier) countries, generally.