China on Tuesday denied a report that it had surpassed the United States last year to become the world's largest energy user.

The Financial Times, citing the International Energy Agency, reported that China last year consumed 2.252 billion tonnes of oil equivalent of energy from sources including coal, oil, natural gas, hydro and nuclear power, about 4 percent more than the United States.

But Zhou Xian, spokesperson for China's National Energy Administration, said on Tuesday that the IEA's estimate of China's energy consumption was too high, although he declined to give an alternative estimate.

The IEA estimate, he said, could be used as a reference but is not very credible.

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.

The IEA cautioned that the energy use figures for China last year were still preliminary, but that the trend was clear, the Financial Times report said.

In 2000, the United States -- the world's largest economy -- consumed twice as much energy as China, but China, which is the world's third-largest economy, now consumes more than the United States, the Financial Times report quoted Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist, as saying.

China's rise to the top ranking was faster than had been expected in part because the United States has outpaced China in improving energy efficiency measures over the past decade, the paper said.

During the period, the United States had improved efficiency in energy use by 2.5 percent annually while China only managed 1.7 percent annual improvement.

China's energy demand growth has largely braved the global financial crisis that hit the United States and Europe.

Zhou added that China has already exceeded the United States in the pace of new energy utilization.

China has the world's largest installed capacity of hydropower, the largest solar use for water heating, the largest capacity of nuclear power generators under construction and the fastest growth in wind power development, he said.

(Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Ken Wills)