At the heart of energy research is the question of how we can reversibly store and release energy in chemical bonds? To affect chemical conversions in an efficient manner a catalyst is required in order to lower the kinetic barrier and allow challenging processes such as producing hydrogen, reducing dinitrogen, or splitting water to occur. These catalysts may be biological or chemical, but in most cases, a transition metal is involved in enabling these transformations. In order to establish the unifying principles in energy conversion one ideally would like to know how these catalysts operate on an atomic level. What are the metal oxidation states, spin states and substrate coordination modes which can best affect these conversion? And how is the catalyst optimized for a specific chemical conversion? The answers to these questions require an atomic level understanding of the changes, which occur in both the geometric and electronic structure of the catalyst over the course of a reaction. It is here that advanced X-ray spectroscopic approaches have the potential to provide great insights. In this talk, recent studies using both resonant and non-resonant X-ray emission measurements (XES and RXES/RIXS) to study catalytic nitrogen reduction and methane oxidation will be presented.