Beijing: China on Tuesday rejected an assessment from the International Energy Agency that it had surpassed the United States to become the world`s top energy consumer, calling the data "unreliable".
The Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal cited a top IEA official as saying the Asian giant had taken over the top spot in 2009, earlier than expected.
According to the IEA, China consumed 2.252 billion tons of oil equivalent of energy in 2009, from sources that included coal, nuclear power, natural gas and hydroelectric power -- about four percent more than the United States.
But an official with China`s National Energy Administration told reporters the report was flawed.
"The IEA`s data on China`s energy use is unreliable," the official, Zhou Xian, was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.
The Financial Times quoted IEA chief economist Fatih Birol as saying: "In the year 2000, the US consumed twice as much energy as China; now, China consumes more than the US."
The United States still uses far more energy than China on a per capita basis, but China is less energy-efficient, the report said.
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 and satisfy sky-rocketing demand fuelled by its fast-expanding economy and citizens` increasing consumerism.
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.
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.