We perform a quantitative comparison of different energy transfer theories, i.e. modified Redfield, standard and generalized Förster theories, as well as combined Redfield-Förster approach. Physical limitations of these approaches are illustrated and critical values of the key parameters indicating their validity are found. We model at a quantitative level the spectra and dynamics in two photosynthetic antenna complexes: in phycoerythrin 545 from cryptophyte algae and in trimeric LHCII complex from higher plants. These two examples show how the structural organization determines a directed energy transfer and how equilibration within antenna subunits and migration between subunits are superimposed. © 2010 the Owner Societies.