(EnergyAsia, February 27 2012, Monday) — Led by natural gas and coal, China’s total energy consumption grew by 7% last year to 3.48 billion tons of standard coal equivalent, said the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Natural gas demand surged 12% while coal grew by 9.7%, and crude oil use rose by a mere 2.7%. The nation’s electricity consumption jumped 11.7%.

Natural gas and coal also led the country’s increase in energy production, both rising by 8.7% over 2010, while crude oil output edged up 0.3% to 204 million tons, said the NBS.

China produced 103.06 billion cubic metres of natural gas and 3.52 billion tons of coal last year.

To meet its growing energy shortfall, China stepped up imports of oil and coal at a total cost of over US$250.3 billion to account for 14.3% of the country’s total import spending.

Its import of coal rose 10.8% to 182.4 million tons while its oil product imports climbed 10.1% to US$32.7 billion, and its crude oil purchases rose 6% to reach US$196.7 billion.

The country’s power companies produced 4,700.07 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity last year, up 11.7% from 2010. Thermal power output rose by 14.8% to 3,825.32 billion kwh or 81.3% of China’s total electricity output.

Despite the tragic nuclear disaster in Japan last March, Chinese nuclear power output surged 16.9% to 86.35 billion kwh.

Hydro-generated electricity fell 3.9% to 694.04 billion kwh as a result of widespread drought for several months.

The national energy consumption per 10,000 yuan worth of GDP fell by just over 2%, indicating more efficient use of energy, said the NBS.

China’s consumption of major raw materials included 840 million tons of rolled steel (up 9%), 7.86 million tons of copper (up 5.2%), 17.24 million tons of electrolytic aluminum (12.1%) 15.28 million tons of ethylene (7.5%) and 2.07 billion tons of cement, (11.2%).

The value of the country’s merchandise trade rose 22.5% to US$3,642.1 billion. Exports climbed 20.3% to US$1,898.6 billion while imports rose at a faster rate of 24.9% to US$1,743.5 billion. As a result, China’s trade surplus shrank by US$26.4 billion in 2010 to US$155.1 billion last year.

 The NBS said China’s gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 9.2% to 47,156.4 billion yuan last year.

The country’s foreign exchange reserves reached US$3,181.1 billion, an increase of US$333.8 billion from 2010. The Chinese currency, the yuan, was valued at 6.3009 to the dollar at the end of 2011 after appreciating by 5.1% over the course of the year.

By the end of 2011, China’s population excluding Hong Kong and Macau had risen by 6.44 million to reach 1,347.35 million.

A landmark was achieved when the urban population reached 690.79 million, accounting for 51.3%, the first time it has exceeded the rural population, said the NBS. The male-female sex ratio at birth was significantly skewed at 117.78. About 22.8% of the population was aged 60 or more.