China rejects IEA's claims about energy consumption

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, July 30 -- China has rejected an assessment by the International Energy Agency that it had overtaken the US to become the world's top energy consumer.

“The IEA's data on China's energy use is unreliable,” said Zhou Xian, director-general of the General Affairs Department of the National Energy Administration (NEA).

Zhou was referring to IEA claims that China consumed 2.252 billion tons of oil equivalent (toe) of energy in 2009, a figure that would put China about 4% ahead of the US in the use of energy sources including coal, nuclear power, natural gas, and hydroelectric power.

Zhou claimed IEA lacked understanding about China's efforts to reduce energy use and emissions, notably the country's aggressive expansion of new energy development.

“We believe that [IEA] did not understand fully the Chinese situation, in particular the efforts China made in energy saving, emission reductions, and development in new energy sources,” said Zhou.

“China has already outpaced the US in new energy expansion, as the nation has the world's largest hydropower capacity, solar power use for water heating, nuclear power capacity under construction, and the fastest growth in wind power generation,” Zhou said.

Another NEA official who declined to be named told Chinese state media the IEA and China's statistical authority collected data from different sources, which led to the different results. He did not elaborate.

Lin Bogiang, director of the Center for Energy Economic Research of China at Xiamen University, disputed the value of any evidence other than Chinese government data. “If the IEA data is calculated by using sources other than China's official figures, it must be wrong and meaningless,” said Lin.

China's National Bureau of Statistics issued a report in February saying the country’s energy consumption stood at the equivalent of 3.1 billion tonnes of standard coal, equal to 2.132 billion tonnes of oil, in 2009.

IEA, the energy strategy branch of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, defended its position following the Chinese objections.

IEA chief economist Faith Birol said, “All the relevant sources of statistics indicate that China has surpassed the US to become the world's largest energy consumer.”

Contact Eric Watkins at

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