The efficiency of atmospheric energy is an important component of atmospheric science research all along and has been evidently developed in the past tens of years. The present paper aims at a comprehensive review of the research progress of atmospheric energetics, especially for its efficiency problem. Focused on some problems existing in the classical theory of available potential energy, a new concept named as perturbation potential energy (PPE) has been put forward in order to extend the scale of energetic efficiency from global to local or regional atmosphere. Furthermore, some theoretical and applied problems have been preliminarily studied. Mathematical expressions have been derived and their physical senses have been discussed. In previous works, some characteristics of PPE including climatology, basal spatio-temporary features, and associations between PPE and atmospheric kinetic energy, have been diagnosed by using NCEP/NCAR reanalysis dataset, and many meaningful results have been obtained. In fact, it can be seen that the PPE is an crucial physical variable for research on variation, transform and cycle of local circulation energy, which will play an important role in investigating local or regional weather and climate change.