In seawater desalination, the energy efficiency of practical processes is expressed in kWh_electricity or low-grade-heat per m3 of water produced, omitting the embedded energy quality underlying their generation processes. To avoid thermodynamic misconceptions, it is important to recognize both quality and quantity of energy consumed. An unmerited quantitative apportionment can result in inferior deployment of desalination methods. This article clarifies misapprehensions regarding seeming parity between electricity and thermal sources that are sequentially cogenerated in power plants. These processes are represented by heat engines to yield the respective maximum (Carnot) work potentials. Equivalent work from these engines are normalized individually to give a corresponding standard primary energy (QSPE), defined via a common energy platform between the adiabatic flame temperature of fuel and the surroundings. Using the QSPE platform, the energy efficiency of 60 desalination plants of assorted types, available from literature, are compared retrospectively and with respect to Thermodynamic Limit.