Soft X-ray spectroscopy (SXS) techniques such as photoelectron spectroscopy, soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy and X-ray emission spectroscopy are efficient and direct tools to probe electronic structures of materials. Traditionally, these surface sensitive soft X-ray techniques that detect electrons or photons require high vacuum to operate. Many recent in situ instrument developments of these techniques have overcome this vacuum barrier. One can now study many materials and model devices under near ambient, semi-realistic, and operando conditions. Further developments of integrating the realistic sample environments with efficient and high resolution detection methods, particularly at the high brightness synchrotron light sources, are making SXS an important tool for the energy research community. In this progress report, we briefly describe the basic concept of several SXS techniques and discuss recent development of SXS instruments. We then present several recent studies, mostly in situ SXS experiments, on energy materials and devices. Using these studies, we would like to highlight that the integration of SXS and in situ environments can provide in-depth insight of material's functionality and help researchers in new energy material developments. The remaining challenges and critical research directions are discussed at the end.