Estrogen receptor related receptor (ERR)alpha was one of the first identified (1988) orphan nuclear receptors. Many of the orphan receptors identified after ERRalpha were deorphanized in a timely manner and appreciated as key transcriptional regulators of metabolic pathways. ERRalpha, however, remains an orphan. Nevertheless, recent studies have defined regulatory mechanisms and transcriptional targets of ERRalpha, allowing this receptor to join ranks with other nuclear receptors that control metabolism. Notably, mice lacking ERRalpha show defects when challenged with stressors that require a 'shift of gears' in energy metabolism, such as exposure to cold, cardiac overload or infection. These findings establish the importance of ERRalpha for adaptive energy metabolism, and suggest that strategies targeting ERRalpha may be useful in fighting metabolic diseases.