<p>A transition away from fossil fuels in South Africa is required to meet the obligations of the Paris Agreement, and to address the challenge of climate change. The country remains on an unsustainable path towards increasing fossil fuel dependency, while its immense potential for renewable energy lies untapped. Urgent work is needed to identify and assess the policy barriers which are holding the country back. The limited literature on barrier theory is reviewed, and a new taxonomy of policy barriers is developed. This is then used to interpret the findings of 28 elite semi-structured interviews with key organisations and individuals, which are analysed to ascertain what lies beneath the current direction of travel, and how these barriers are impeding progress. The paper develops the policy implications of those findings and presents conclusions for action needed by the South African government and others. It further concludes that the techniques developed are applicable to a wide range of transitional situations.</p>