In the netherlands, the national government is committed towards altering the systems of energy, transport and agriculture in the name of sustainable development. A process of deliberation and change was started—aimed at achieving ‘transitions’—using a model of transition management. This paper examines how the new arrangements of governance for energy transition deal with six problems of steering: ambivalence about goals, uncertainty about cause–effect relations, distributed power of control, political myopia, determination of short-term steps for long-term change and the danger of lock-in to new systems. The dutch experience shows that transition management is applied in ways different from the original model (established players play a too great role) but it appears a useful model of reflexive governance, combining advantages of incremental politics with those of planning. It helps to orientate innovation policy and sectoral policies to sustainable development goals and to exploit business interests in system innovations in a prudent manner.