China Energy Use Rose 7% in 2011, Efficiency Improved

China’s energy use rose at the fastest pace in four years in 2011 and efficiency improved, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Consumption climbed 7 percent to 3.48 billion metric tons of standard coal equivalent, a report on the bureau’s website showed today. That’s the fastest rate since 2007, when it was 7.8 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Consumption per unit of gross domestic product fell 2.01 percent from 2010, the bureau said, without elaborating.

The data underscore China’s increasing share of world energy demand even as the nation attempts to curb the cost of powering its factories and reduce pollution. The government wants to cut energy use per unit of gross domestic product by 16 percent in the five years through 2015.

“The nation’s energy use has been supported by strong coal demand,” Aochao Wang, head of China research at UOB-Kay Hian Ltd., said by telephone from Shanghai. “The increased use of coal constrains the nation’s efforts in improving energy efficiency.”

Demand for coal, which China relies on for about 70 percent of its energy needs, rose 9.7 percent in 2011 from a year earlier, according to today’s report, which didn’t give absolute volumes. That’s the highest growth since 2005. Crude-oil use increased 2.7 percent, natural gas gained 12 percent and electricity demand expanded 11.7 percent.

Differing Measures

Total energy use by the world’s second-biggest economy rose to the equivalent of 96.66 thousand trillion British thermal units, according to conversion rates from China’s government and the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The U.S. consumed 97.88 thousand trillion, according to the EIA’s Feb. 7 Short-Term Energy Outlook Report.

China overtook the U.S. in 2009 to become the world’s biggest energy consumer, according to a measure of million tons of oil equivalent by the Paris-based International Energy Agency in July 2010. China’s government refuted the claim at the time.

The Asian nation became the biggest consumer in 2010 with 20.3 percent of global energy demand compared with 19 percent for the U.S, according to BP Plc’s Statistical Review of World Energy, which also used tons of oil equivalent.

China’s standard coal has an energy value of 7,000 kilocalories per kilogram. One kilocalorie converts to 3.968 British thermal units, according to the EIA.