Abstract Departing from the concept of rational use of energy, the paper outlines the microeconomics of end-use energy saving as a result of frugality or efficiency measures. Frugality refers to the behaviour that is aimed at energy conservation, and with efficiency we refer to the technical ratio between energy input and output services that can be modified with technical improvements (e.g. technology substitution). Changing behaviour from one side and technology from the other are key issues for public energy policy. In this paper, we attempt to identify the effects of parameters that determine energy saving behaviour with the use of the microeconomic theory. The role of these parameters is crucial and can determine the outcome of energy efficiency policies; therefore policymakers should properly address them when designing policies.