Variation in the shape of relationships between species richness and different measures of energy may be linked to variation in the spatial scale on which such relationships are measured. We examine scale dependence in the relationship between potential evapotranspiration and the species richness of fishes in 7,885 postglacial lakes. The strength of this relationship is weak across lake communities but strong and positive across groups of lakes or regions. In addition, the strength and slope of this relationship increase significantly as the regional scale of analysis is increased. We interpret the observed patterns in terms of a simple model whereby energy influences the linear character of the species-energy relationship through its influence on spatial turnover in the species composition (beta diversity). Our results suggest that if energy is strongly tied to patterns of site occupancy or abundance, the parameters of species-energy relationships will depend, to a considerable extent, on the scale of measurement. Furthermore, the ability of high-energy regions to accommodate relatively large numbers of rare or infrequent species may underlie any general tendency for the strength or shape of species-energy relationships to change with scale.