The use of statistical energy analysis (SEA) for the solution of vibroacoustic problems that occur with the operation of machinery, has only recently become practicable. This paper charts the developments that led from the early ideas of energy accountancy (EA) to the current SEA modeling techniques. The basic concept of EA, which was conceived to show the influence of the overall design parameters on the radiated noise, is explained and its limitations discussed. The paper then goes on to describe how the various practical difficulties preventing the application of SEA were overcome to the point where it could be used as a practical tool. Finally, a case history is presented in which an experimental SEA model is used to determine input (exciting) powers, power flow and sensitivity of the noise to parameter changes. In addition, the use of an optimization algorithm for driving the noise level down to a target spectrum within parameter and weight constraints is also demonstrated.