This paper develops an integrated framework to study the socio-spatial and temporal dimensions of urban energy transitions to investigate the development and spread of solar energy technologies in urban China. A comparative analysis of three case studies of solar energy transitions in the cities of Foshan (in Guangdong), Rizhao (in Shandong), and Wuxi (in Jiangsu) demonstrates the framework’s applicability. The results map each city’s trajectory towards low carbon energy. Transitions result from dynamic interactions among central and local governments, solar manufacturers, solar installers, and residents. Alongside industrial strategies, locally-specific factors have a determining influence on the eventual outcomes.