Sunlight is the ultimate energy source for the vast majority of life on Earth, and organisms have evolved elegant machinery for energy capture and utilization. Solar energy, whether converted to wind, rain, biomass or fossil fuels, is also the primary energy source for human-engineered energy transduction systems. This tutorial review draws parallels between biological and technological energy systems. Aspects of biology that might be advantageously incorporated into emerging technologies are highlighted, as well as ways in which technology might improve upon the principles found in biological systems. Emphasis is placed upon artificial photosynthesis, as well as the use of protonmotive force in biology.