Energy Research & Social Science (ERSS) emerged in response to an identified lack of social science energy scholarship. The first publication in this journal asked ‘What can the social sciences bring to energy research?’. Since then, ERSS has become a home for articles that have explored this question in a multitude of ways. In this Perspective we want to reflect, and stimulate debate, on the question we see as the other side of the coin: ‘What can energy research bring to the social sciences?’ We develop our reflection, first, by exploring energy’s unique features: what a focus on energy makes visible and thinkable that other entry points do not. We subsequently introduce a ‘menu of possibilities’: areas of scholarship where a focus on energy has enabled or could enable different ways of understanding the world. We conclude with the suggestion that by changing the object of analysis, energy scholars can develop both new conceptual insights, and emphasise our connections with issues explored outside of energy scholarship.