The transition from fossil-fuel based power generation to renewable energy is well underway; however, this transition is highly uneven and not all regions and communities are engaging equally. The circumpolar north is one region where disparities in the uptake of community renewable energy (CRE) projects is evident. Many Northern, remote communities are not connected to national electricity grids and as a result, rely heavily on imported and expensive fuels for power generation. However, within this context, there are places in the US state of Alaska that have forged a leading path toward CRE. This paper investigates why some remote communities develop renewable energy projects while others do not. Using Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), we compare 24 remote communities in Alaska to identify the combination of explanatory factors that can lead to CRE. We first identified 37 potential conditions, from which we drew three primary explanatory factors: community capacity, electricity subsidies, and pooled resources. Results show the absence of large electricity subsidies is a necessary condition to the development of CRE. It also shows that the presence of subsidies (above a state-wide program) stymies transitions. We also found that particular combinations of the absence of large subsidies, community capacity, and working collaboratively to pool resources across communities, were found to be key explanatory variables in the establishment of CRE. These findings may have implications for other communities both in the Circumpolar North and elsewhere, clarifying the conditions that support CRE development.