Starch is the primary energy reserve in higher plants and is, after cellulose, the second most abundant carbohydrate in the biosphere. It is also the most important energy source in the human diet and, being a biodegradable polymer with well-defined chemical properties, has an enormous potential as a versatile renewable resource. The only naturally occurring covalent modification of starch is phosphorylation. Starch phosphate esters were discovered a century ago but were long regarded as a curiosity, receiving little attention. Indeed, the mechanism for starch phosphorylation remained completely unknown until recently. The starch-phosphorylating enzyme is an alpha-glucan water dikinase. It is now known that starch phosphorylation plays a central role in starch metabolism.