Low-carbon technologies must be widely adopted at a large scale to address climate change and enhance access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy. The uptake of those technologies is often supported by specific policies developed at a national or regional level and those policies, like the technologies themselves, can diffuse from one place to another. This paper sheds some light on this ‘policy transfer’ and investigates the dynamics, the actors and the processes involved. We illustrate what happens when renewable energy support policies in one country inspire renewable support policies in another country using three case studies in Peru, Thailand and Uganda as examples. Using an adapted version of the policy transfer framework first elaborated by Dolowitz and Marsh (Polit Stud 44:343–57, 1996; Governance 13:5–23, 2000), we describe the policy transfer process in the three case study countries according to several criteria. We find that policy transfer is not a straightforward process where a ‘borrower’ country simply adopts policies from a ‘lender’ country, but instead a complex process where many actors - national and international – interact to shape the outcome of the process. And while experiences particularly in the EU as well as international developments have influenced the policy transfer in case study countries significantly, domestic issues also play a key role in shaping the transferred policies and in adapting them to local contexts. Moreover, the policy transfer process is not an one-off event, but a continuous process where iterative learning helps the policies to evolve over time. Policy transfer is a complex matter, involving many stakeholders during a continuous process over time. The Dolowitz and Marsh framework proved useful to analyse policy transfer and the actors involved although questions for further research remain. For instance, against what kind of criteria should the ‘success’ of a policy transfer be measured? Moreover, while comparing three illustrative case studies is a first, useful step, having a larger set of case studies and data might enhance our understanding of the details of the processes involved even further.