© Agence France PresseChina has surpassed the US to become the world's top energy consumer, new data says
China has surpassed the United States to become the world's top energy consumer, a report said Tuesday, citing an official at the International Energy Agency.

The Asian giant took over the top spot more quickly than expected, but still uses far less energy than the United States on a per capita basis, and is less energy-efficient, the Financial Times reported.

China consumed 2.252 billion tons of oil equivalent of energy in 2009, from sources including coal, nuclear power, natural gas and hydroelectric power -- about four percent more than the United States, the IEA said.

"In the year 2000, the US consumed twice as much energy as China; now, China consumes more than the US," the paper quoted IEA chief economist Fatih Birol as saying.

"The US has come to a certain saturation of energy use, but there have also been lots of efforts, especially since 2005, to use energy more efficiently," Birol said.

The IEA economist added that China would now have more influence on global energy consumption patterns, noting: "There will be a big multiplier effect."

The IEA, the energy strategy branch of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, said the data was still preliminary but that the trend was clear, the newspaper reported.

China has embarked in recent years on an aggressive campaign to secure overseas energy supplies to satisfy sky-rocketing demand fuelled by its fast-expanding economy and its citizens' increasingly consumptive lifestyles.

Late last year, Beijing announced ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit that it would embark on a major energy efficiency drive to curb growth in its world-leading greenhouse gas emissions.

And it has set a goal of generating 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources -- mainly wind and water -- by 2020.

The IEA's Birol told the Financial Times that while the United States had improved its energy efficiency by 2.5 percent annually over the past decade, China had only notched up a 1.7 percent annual improvement.

China still depends on coal for about 70 percent of its energy needs. It has surpassed Japan as the world's largest coal importer, despite its own vast coal resources.