China overtakes the United States to become world’s largest energy consumer

20 July 2010

IEA calculations based on preliminary data show that China has now overtaken the United States as the world's largest energy user. China's rise to the top ranking was faster than expected as it was much less affected by the global financial crisis than the United States.

For those who have been following energy consumption trends closely, this does not come as a surprise. What is more important is the phenomenal growth in demand that has taken place in China over the last decade; also prospects for future growth still remain incredibly strong. Since 2000, China’s energy demand has doubled, yet on a per capita basis it is still only around one-third of the OECD average. Prospects for further growth are very strong considering the country’s low per-capita consumption level and the fact that China is the most populous nation on the planet, with more than 1.3 billion people.

China’s demand today would be even higher still if the government had not made such progress in reducing the energy intensity (the energy input per unit of economic output) of its economy. It has also very quickly become one of the world’s leaders in renewable energy, particularly wind power and solar energy, and has paved the way for a big expansion of nuclear power.