Saturday, 10 January 2009

Wind energy supply dips during cold snap

Britain's wind farms have stopped working during the cold snap due to lack of wind, it has emerged, as scientists claimed half the world's energy could soon be from renewables.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Last Updated: 1:10AM GMT 10 Jan 2009

The Met Office said there has been an unusually long period of high pressure across the UK for the last couple of weeks, causing the cold snap and very little wind.
Since Boxing Day much of the country has suffered sub-zero conditions with frozen rivers and lakes and even the sea in the south of England, at Sandbanks in Dorset. In the last few days temperatures in southern England plunged as low as 17.6F (-8C). However the weather is expected to warm up over the weekend, with wind speeds also picking up.
But sources in the energy industry say that the lack of wind has caused the country's wind farms to grind to a halt when more electricity than ever is needed for heating, forcing the grid to rely on back up from fossil fuels or other renewable energy sources.
In the long term, experts fear that the intermittent nature of wind will force the UK to rely on insecure energy supplies, for example gas from Russia, and are calling for a greater energy mix including controversial nuclear and coal-fired power stations.
The continuing row between Russia and the Ukraine over gas supplies mean that Moscow cut supplies to the rest of Europe, sparking shortages that have hit 18 countries so far.
John Constable, research director at the Renewable Energy Foundation, said wind has been generating at a sixth of total capacity for much of the last couple of weeks, dropping to almost zero at times.
"This shows that wind provides very little firm, reliable capacity," he said. "At times of high demand in cold weather there is a tendency for there to be no wind."
Power generator E.On said wind energy supplies have dipped 60 per cent in the last couple of weeks, when compared to the last fortnight in December
A spokesman said: “As a country we need to keep the lights on, reduce our environmental impact, and do that in the most affordable way for our customers. Sadly there is no single miracle cure to do that.
“Renewables, such as wind, have a big part to play now and in the future but in order to guarantee a secure electricity supply it’s clear we need a mix of power stations including cleaner coal, new nuclear and gas.”
Europe has pledged to source 20 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020. Dr Constable said the current crisis in European gas supplies highlighted the danger of relying on an energy supply that needs to be backed up with other sources and called for a mix of alternatives.
"At the moment it is not a problem because we have supplies of oil and gas from the North Sea but when we go 11 years down the line when we have 20 per cent from renewables and we have a similar weather pattern then we have a problem."
The Met Office said high pressure coming in from the east can cause long periods of cold or heat waves. For wind there is a need for differences in pressure and there is expected to be strong winds over this weekend.
Hazel Thornton, from the climate change adaptation team, said observational evidence has shown a fall in wind over the last 30 years – although further research is needed. The Met Office is currently working with energy companies to predict how global warming will affect wind patterns in the UK.
"For energy companies, high pressures are problematic because we do not get so much wind over a lot of the UK," she added.
However advocates of renewables said the intermittent nature of wind will not be a problem in the long run because supplies could be shared worldwide, enabling a constant source of energy.
A new report from Energy Watch Group claimed that half of the world's electricity needs could be generated from wind or solar by 2025, with fossil fuels phased out completely by 2037.
The independent research group based their calculations on the current 30 per cent growth in the energy sector and continuing demand for electricity.
Even if growth in the wind sector slows down, the world will be sourcing 23 per cent of electricity from wind by 2025.
Dr Rudolph Rechsteiner, author of the report, said that wind energy will continue to grow as fossil fuels become more expensive, technology improves and the grid is updated.
He said the US and China are already expanding the sector massively and other countries will also be investing in the technology, which is the most viable renewable energy source at the moment.
He said: “In times of rising supply disruption risks and rising cost renewable energy technologies are the only source which provides predictable electricity in terms of economics and in terms of supply.”

International Energy Agency 'blocking global switch to renewables'

International Energy Agency accused of consistently underestimating potential of wind, solar and sea power while promoting oil, coal and nuclear as 'irreplaceable' technologies
David Adam, environment correspondent, Friday 9 January 2009 10.02 GMT

The international body that advises most major governments across the world on energy policy is obstructing a global switch to renewable power because of its ties to the oil, gas and nuclear sectors, a group of politicians and scientists claims today.
The experts, from the Energy Watch group, say the International Energy Agency (IEA) publishes misleading data on renewables, and that it has consistently underestimated the amount of electricity generated by wind power in its advice to governments. They say the IEA shows "ignorance and contempt" towards wind energy, while promoting oil, coal and nuclear as "irreplaceable" technologies.
In a report to be published today, the Energy Watch experts say wind-power capacity has rocketed since the early 90s and that if current trends continue, wind and solar power-generation combined are on track to match conventional generation by 2025.
Rudolf Rechsteiner, a member of the Swiss parliament who sits on its energy and environment committee, and wrote today's report, said the IEA suffered from "institutional blindness" on renewable energy. He said: "They are delaying the change to a renewable world. They continue touting nuclear and carbon-capture-and-storage, classical central solutions, instead of a more neutral approach, which would favour new solutions."
Today's report compares past predictions about the growth of wind power, made by the IEA and others, with the capacity of wind turbines actually installed.
It says: "By comparing historic forecasts on wind power with reality, we find that all official forecasts were much too low."
In 1998, the IEA predicted that global wind electricity generation would total 47.4GW by 2020. This figure was reached in December 2004, the report says. In 2002, the IEA revised its estimate to 104GW wind by 2020 – a capacity that had been exceeded by last summer.
In 2007, net additions of wind power across the world were more than four-fold the average IEA estimate from its 1995-2004 predictions, the report says. "The IEA numbers were neither empirically nor theoretically based," it says.
The IEA's most recent forecast, in its 2008 World Energy Outlook, predicts a fivefold increase in wind energy from 2006-2015, but then assumes a rapid slowdown in deployment over the following decade. The Energy Watch report calls this a "virtual stagnation" and says "no arguments are given why the wind sector should suffer such a crisis by 2015 and after".
The report concludes: "The IEA outlook remains attached to oil, gas, coal and nuclear, and renewables seem to have no chance to reverse this trend. This organisation… has been deploying misleading data on renewables for many years [and is still doing so]."
It adds: "One has to ask if the ignorance and contempt of IEA toward wind power and renewables in general is done within a structure of intent."
Mr Rechsteiner, who says he has investments in a handful of wind turbines, said the IEA routinely drew senior staff from the fossil-fuel industry. "The oil business is very skilful in keeping its energy access exclusive," he says.
The IEA describes itself as an "intergovernmental organisation which acts as energy policy advisor to 28 member countries in their effort to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for their citizens". It refused to comment on today's report. The Energy Watch group is run by the Ludwig Bölkow Foundation in Germany.
John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley and a member of the Energy Watch group, said: "The IEA has been complacent, and part of the conventional wisdom that the solution is more oil and gas. The British government relies on the IEA. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king — but the IEA's one eye has a cataract."
Today's report says the number of wind turbines installed over the last decade has grown by 30% annually, and total windpower capacity is more than 90GW – the equivalent of 90 conventional coal or nuclear power stations. It adds that the boom in wind energy is "so far barely touched by any sign of recession or financial crisis".
If current trends continue, the report claims wind capacity could reach 7,500GW by 2025 – making half of all new power projects wind or solar. Conventional power stations could be phased out completely by 2037, it claims.
Werner Zittel of the Energy Watch group, said: "It is time to realise that the many detractors of wind energy have got it wrong. We have seen more than 10 years of unprecedented growth in this sector… This is not about morals or environment but the commercial reality that wind, coupled with hydro, solar, biomass and geothermal energy is not only a rapid and cost-effective alternative, but one that could deliver all our energy requirements within the first half of the century."

Experts from Europe monitor flow

Ian Traynor in Prague and Luke Harding in Moscow
The Guardian, Saturday 10 January 2009

European energy experts took up positions last night to monitor the flow of natural gas through Ukraine from Siberia to Europe, in the hope of securing an end to the energy crisis triggered by a bitter dispute between Moscow and Kiev.
Ten days after Russia's giant gas monopoly, Gazprom, cut supplies to Ukraine because of the row over prices and three days after the Russians stopped sending all gas to and through Ukraine, Brussels demanded that Moscow honour its side of a deal struck on Thursday and turn the gas back on.
With temperatures plunging to -20C (-4F) in parts of eastern and southern Europe which have been receiving no gas since Wednesday, hopes were high that regular central heating systems would resume normal operations soon.
But gas experts meeting in Brussels said that once the Russians resumed pumping gas, it would take 30 hours to reach Ukraine and a further 36 hours to reach the first EU countries, such as Slovakia, bordering Ukraine. It would be at least three days before normal gas supplies were restored.
The Gazprom chief, Alexei Miller, said supplies would resume when the agreement on the monitors was finalised. "Immediately after that we will renew deliveries," he said.
But the Russians continued to haggle over details of the monitoring mission and Czech officials mediating the agreement indicated there could still be snags.
The first of 22 experts from European gas companies and the European commission went to Kiev to start monitoring the flow of Russian fuel through Ukraine.
The Czech prime minister and EU president, Mirek Topolanek, also went to Kiev to try to ensure there were no hiccups.
A senior Ukrainian diplomat warned that any resumption of gas deliveries to Europe would be "temporary". There could be no lasting solution to the gas crisis until Ukraine had reached a bilateral deal with Moscow over the price of Russian gas supplied to its own consumers, he said.
"We will not allow our people to freeze because Europeans feel a little cold," the diplomat said. "It's very unfortunate. For the moment we can let gas flow and slug it out [with Russia]. But this is temporary. We can't guarantee it will continue."
Of the Siberian gas passing through Ukraine, about a quarter is sold to Ukraine, and the rest is bought by European countries - 80% of the gas Europe buys from Russia.
With Moscow and Kiev engaged in a bad-tempered blame game, the monitors will try to establish facts about the gas supply. They are there purely to ensure that Europe gets its gas, not to referee the dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Scotland's in the grip of a green revolution

Published Date: 10 January 2009
By Jenny Haworth Environment Correspondent

HUNDREDS of communities across Scotland have stepped up to the challenge of fighting climate change as a green revolution sweeps the country.
One year has passed since The Scotsman changed the colour of its masthead to green for a day and encouraged readers to go green too. And in the 12 months since the Let's Go Green Together campaign was launched, the results have been phenomenal.Not only have 4,700 people signed up to ten pledges to lead greener lifestyles, but 225 community groups have devised schemes to help the environment. Of those, 32 groups have been given a share of almost £2 million handed out from the Scottish Government's £27 million Climate Challenge Fund. These range from projects to install energy-efficient lamps at a sports pitch in Penicuik, to the creation of allotments in Forres.In Fife, efforts are being made to generate electricity from sewage, while in Toryglen, Glasgow, a community composting scheme is being set up.Dozens of other initiatives, from setting up community wind farms, to starting cycling schemes, holding awareness-raising sessions, and providing electric public transport, have started across Scotland over the past year.Evan Williams, UK manager for The Climate Project, a scheme set up by the American climate campaigner Al Gore, this week visited Going Carbon Neutral Stirling, an initiative aimed at making the city the UK's first carbon neutral community.He told The Scotsman he thinks community action is the key to fighting climate change. "The biggest thing anybody can do is to commit to making a change themselves and then to talk to their neighbours about it," he said. "If the community you live in is good at recycling, you are more likely to do the same. The whole way we organise our lives is going to have to change. There is no plan B. We have to seriously start tackling this problem."He threw his support behind Let's Go Green Together, and said action must be taken urgently."By 2050 if we haven't made a huge effort then it's too late and we basically have lost control of the climate," he said."Scottish people might well be able to survive that relatively well but we are talking about massive disruption across the world."The Scottish Government is aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.Richard Lochhead, environment secretary, said he was "heartened" by the number of Scots making efforts to go green."Many Scots are already taking decisive action and thinking about the consequences of their actions – recycling more and using more energy-efficient light bulbs as well as buying more seasonal and unpackaged produce," he said. "These small but significant changes are helping to reduce our impact on the environment."Our Climate Challenge Fund continues to attract widespread interest from community organisations across Scotland. "Schools, sports clubs, churches, community associations and residents groups have come forward with ideas for projects to reduce their carbon emissions."He added that taking steps to help the environment can save money.The average household could save up to £340 a year just by taking some simple energy efficiency measures.The Climate Challenge Fund was proposed by the Scottish Greens during the 2007 election, and adopted by the Scottish Government as part of the budget negotiations in 2008.Going Green Together with ten pledges…LET'S Go Green Together encourages people to sign up to ten pledges: • Recycle household waste using local facilities • Turn the tap off when brushing your teeth • Switch to using energy- saving lightbulbs • Leave car at least once a week and cycle, walk, share a car or use public transport • Use rechargeable batteries • Re-use store carrier bags • Buy more seasonal and unpackaged food • Hang your washing up to dry rather than use a dryer • Organise or volunteer in an environmental project&149 Pay back environmental impact of any flights you take and choose not to fly when there's a suitable alternativeYou can sign up at or at Stirling signs up to one woman's carbon-neutral dream RACHEL Nunn, the force behind a scheme to turn Stirling into the UK's first carbon-neutral city, has set her sights high.She is so passionate about fighting climate change that she aims to get one in three people in the city signed up to Going Carbon Neutral Stirling.Already, less than a year after it launched, a fifth of the people in the city are involved in the project. And it has gained the backing of the Scottish Government, with a grant of £800,000 from the Climate Challenge Fund. Mrs Nunn said: "There's a huge amount of excitement, which is what I had hoped we would generate."We're not just about focusing on how terrifying the situation is, but on what the solutions are."Going Carbon Neutral Stirling is focusing on raising awareness and changing behaviour. The project's seven staff visit groups across the city, ranging from schools to churches, to encourage them to sign up to carbon-cutting tasks.Each group creates its own carbon-cutting plan, involving taking steps such as using cooler temperatures in washing machines, switching off lights and changing to buying local and seasonal produce. To measure progress, utility companies are being asked to provide information on the city's energy use, and the amount of fuel sold in local petrol stations will be monitored.Town is warming to plan for lightening its footprintFITTING homes with insulation street by street is just one of the bold aims of a green-minded Perthshire community.Comrie has received almost £300,000 from the Scottish Government for initiatives to cut its carbon footprint.The Comrie Carbon Challenge project includes not just a street-by-street insulation programme, in conjunction with Scottish and Southern Energy, which could save up to 1,350 tonnes of and £300,000; the group also plans to install renewable energy devices on community buildings and build a compost scheme.Added to that, the town has bought the 90-acre former Cultybraggan Army Camp, under the Land Reform Act, and is aiming to use it to provide allotments, cycle paths and workspace to cut down the need to travel.The "radical" plans have attracted praise from Richard Lochhead, the environment secretary, who said it was a superb example of what communities can do with money from the Climate Challenge Fund. He urged other Scottish communities to follow suit. Already people in Letham, near Perth, are gearing up for a similar home insulation project.Islanders dig in to grow their green credentials GETTING hold of local produce has always been a challenge on the islands of Barra and Vatersay.Most of the food on the two islands in the Western Isles has been shipped from Oban.The five-hour journey uses fuel, which churns out emissions that add to climate change.So to help the environment, islanders decided to start a project to grow fresh food for the 1,150 residents.The Barra and Vatersay Northbay Garden Project has received a £61,671 grant from the Climate Challenge Fund. The money will be spent expanding the Northbay community garden in Barra to enable it to increase the production of vegetables.The produce will then be sold to hotels, businesses and residents. Vegetable seedlings will also be grown so that islanders can grow large amounts of the food eaten on the island.And there are plans to provide a greenhouse, heated using renewable energy, to extend the growing season. As well as saving on food miles, the scheme will cut back on packaging.The islands also aim to install a community-owned wind turbine, to increase recycling facilities and to improve energy efficiency in homes.Community spurred to action by changes to the climateWHEN residents of the small Perthshire town of Alyth decided to form an environment group ten years ago it had modest aims.Those behind the Alyth Environment Group hoped to improve the look of the market town, which is home to about 3,000 people, by small steps such as litter picking and making over footpaths.However, when concerns about climate change began to grow they also decided to up their efforts.Now they have formed the Alyth Climate Action Town Project, with ambitious plans to spur residents into action to fight climate change.Clive Bowman, chairman of the project, said: "I think our aspirations have increased in light of much more awareness of climate change and the carbon reductions we need to achieve."Awareness events have been held, and hundreds of residents have been trying to cut down on their energy use by testing out smart meters, which show how much gas and electricity each home is using at any given time.In 2008 they were granted £11,750 from the Climate Challenge Fund to carry out a feasibility study into ways to reduce travel.They are considering setting up a "hot office" in Alyth, where employees could hot-desk to save their needing to travel to work.

Plans for eco-towns could be challenged in Europe

Plans for eco-towns could be thrown out under European law, according to a damning new report that describes Government strategy on the troubled project as "exceptionally poor".

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Last Updated: 7:57PM GMT 09 Jan 2009

William Sheate, an expert in environmental assessment at Imperial College London, was commissioned to look at the draft planning policy statement on the 15 shortlisted sites.
Up to ten of the controversial developments, which are designed to be environmentally-friendly, will get the go-ahead, but Mr Sheate said the strategic environmental assessment, which is part of the planning process, fails to comply with European rules.
Mr Sheate, who is also an expert adviser to the European Commision, said this is because not enough alternatives were considered to the sites or how the eco-towns will be developed.
He also said many of the arguments are illogical. For example, the Government's "zero-carbon" claims for eco-towns excludes any consideration of the carbon dioxide produced by the expected increase in transport.
Mr Sheate said the environmental assessment as it currently stands is "exceptionally poor".
"As currently proposed the eco-towns policy potentially conflicts with European law on the environmental assessment," he said.
The report is just the latest in a number of problems for the eco-towns, which have seen developers and sponsors pull out, and criticism by environmental groups, planning authorities and big names including Dame Judi Dench and Tim Henman's family.
The housing minister Margaret Beckett is due to make a decision on the final shortlist later this year but sources say only 'one or two' of the 15 shortlisted projects are genuinely viable.
Protests have been ongoing and at the moment the Government is awaiting a judicial review of the policy.
However a spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government insisted that the Government has acted correctly throughout the process.

'Heathrow is a monster. It must be fed'

For a decade, John Stewart has fought the third runway, creating in the process one of the most formidable civil coalitions Britain has seen

John Vidal
The Guardian, Saturday 10 January 2009

Next week, world crises permitting, No 10 will give formal permission for an application to be made to build a third runway at Heathrow airport. Environment groups will howl, the village of Sipson will prepare to be wiped off the map, and airport operator BAA and a few construction companies may crack open the champers at the prospect of the world's busiest international airport growing by as much as 50% to handle an extra 600 flights a day.
But one veteran transport campaigner will just hitch up his trousers and get on with scuppering the project he has been obsessed with for years.
John Stewart, 59, chairs Hacan Clearskies, which sounds like a Turkish cloudspotters' association but is actually one of Europe's largest aviation groups, made up of 5,000 paid-up members and nearly 60 resident and amenity groups from across London and the south-east. As Heathrow's only full-time, and paid, watchdog, he is credited with assembling over 10 years possibly the most formidable coalition ever formed against any single building project in Britain. Thanks largely to this mild Highlander, who has been marooned in London for 25 years and now lives alone, more than 20 local authorities representing 4 million people, six unions, the National Trust, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the WWF, 50 rebel Labour MPs and all the opposition political parties are now opposed to the expansion. In addition, the EU has expressed doubts that the development can meet pollution laws, the locals are furious and there has been tacit opposition in cabinet from climate change secretary Ed Miliband and environment secretary Hilary Benn.
The sheer imbalance between opponents and supporters of the plan is remarkable, says Stewart. "You have to ask yourself why so few people want a third runway? It is not logical at all." And yet it looks set to go ahead, because, he says, "Heathrow has become a mindset, a mantra for growth. In the eyes of the government it has become synonymous with growth without limits. Because the government has identified itself so strongly with the global economy and planes are seen as the workhorse of globalisation, Heathrow just has to keep growing. It's extraordinary that they are going ahead, but [Gordon] Brown has made up his mind. He is obsessed with the global economy and the fact that it is coming off the rails does not matter. Heathrow is a monster that must be fed."
Those who support the expansion, of course, see it very differently. The aviation industry predicts a £10bn a year boost to the economy from the runway, as well as better air quality and more jobs, and the Confederation of British Industry says the third runway will allow London to remain a global financial capital - although that was before the recession. Together, they claim to have "proven" that the noise and pollution limits will not be broken.
Stewart has no truck with the claims of the government and the aviation industry, which he says are misleading. This new runway won't just be a length of concrete, but a multibillion-pound project to effectively bolt a new airport on to Heathrow, he says. The intention is that the runway will handle up to 250,000 planes a year - more than Manchester and any other airport in Britain except Heathrow itself and Gatwick. Because it will be far from the existing terminals a sixth terminal will be needed, and because Heathrow is not big enough, 700 houses, mainly in the village of Sipson, will have to be demolished, along with the school, the church, the cemetery, the pubs, the restaurants - and, of course, the community itself. To top it all, the scheme is expected to generate an extra 20m car journeys a year and may only be possible with a giant rail terminal. The World Development Movement pressure group calculates that it will emit nearly as much carbon dioxide as Kenya.
"It is quite, quite mad," Stewart says. "It will completely blow away Britain's legally binding climate change reduction targets. I am driven - even obsessed - by it because I feel this whole thing is fundamentally wrong and a terrible mistake."
But he does not blame Brown, or the ministers who for the last 30 years have said they would stop Heathrow growing. "The whole history of Heathrow is one of deception," he says. It started with Harold Balfour, the aviation minister in the second world war, who admitted in his memoirs "deceiving" his cabinet colleagues into thinking the small aerodrome was needed as a military base.
That trend continued in modern times, Stewart says, when in 1979 the Terminal 4 planning inspector reported that the noise climate around Heathrow was "unacceptable in a civilised society". He recommended that it be built only if it was the last significant expansion of Heathrow. A year later, aviation minister Lord Trefargne agreed: "the government conclude that the idea of a fifth terminal ... should not be pursued. This effectively limits expansion," he said. The same year, the government agreed to limit the airport to 275,000 flights in and out of Heathrow a year. This was wholly ignored. By 1986 there were more than 300,000 flights. Terminal 5 opened in March last year.
Stewart also points to a BAA statement in 1998, in which it called on the government to rule out a third runway and reassured the community that it would not seek one, and to transport secretary Stephen Byers's pledge in 2003 for a limit of 480,000 flights a year. Within nine months of that the government was consulting on plans for the third runway which could bring flight numbers to over 700,000 a year.
"People living near Heathrow are very angry," Stewart says. "There is no question that the impact of the airport on people is now greater. The emails and letters we get from people who have lived near it for 30 years all say the sheer volume of planes is now driving them crazy. These are ordinary people who believed the ministerial promises and who, on the basis of those promises, decided to buy into the areas or to stay. Now they feel they have been misled. They get even more angry when they hear ministers saying noise is improving."
Stewart has made transport campaigning his life for 20 years but remains a David to the corporate and governmental Goliaths. He earns pitifully little but is rewarded by the policy changes he has forced - such as the near-abandonment of the Tory roadbuilding programme in the 90s - and the wide admiration of his peers who voted him Britain's "most influential environmental activist" last year. But he accepts he has paid a personal price and may no longer be the "nice" man who came to London in his youth.
"I have learned that you have to fight dirty and clever," he says. "The other side plays dirty and you have to match them. When I started 20 years ago I was pretty naive about the ways of the world and the way that the establishment worked. I realised you had to become a bit nastier."
It has been a lesson in British power. The problem, Stewart thinks, is not so much the ministers who come and go as the "wholly unreconstructed part of the Department for Transport" and civil servants who "shamelessly manipulate" the data. "They have decided the growth of airports is imperative to the nation. There is no doubt there has been deep collusion between the civil servants and the industry in the Heathrow decision. They are driving the politicians. I believe the DfT has consistently fed distorted information to ministers for years. I would put a lot of the blame on them."
He names names: "David Gray, the Department for Transport's Heathrow development project manager, and Jonathan Sharrock, another senior DfT official, are the two people in charge of the Heathrow project. They are both very clever and Gray is arrogant and they spend their time trying to get BAA permission to expand and find ways of keeping it within pollution limits. But I believe they do not give independent or neutral advice to ministers.
"For instance, they will start a document with a statement that aviation is 'critical to the economy'. That is taken as read but actually it is loaded. People read it a certain way. Equally with noise. They rig the figures, clearly. They give far too much weight to the noise of individual planes and not enough to the sheer number of them flying overhead so they are deliberately underestimating the level of noise that people hear. It's not quite lies but it is certainly misleading."
A DfT spokesman said: "This claim has been made before and is utter nonsense. DfT officials have provided objective, impartial and honest advice to ministers at all times on this issue.
"Our Heathrow data and modelling has been subject to careful scrutiny and review by a range of experts. The analytical process has been thorough and rigorous, and we have published nearly 1,000 pages of technical documents which report the assumptions and methodologies used and present the results for comment."
Stewart, however, quotes Labour MP Chris Mullin, who said of his time as aviation minister from 1999 to 2001: "I learned two things. First, that the demands of the aviation industry are insatiable. Second, that successive governments have usually given way to them."
Stewart's opponents are impressed. "He is a professional campaigner who understands the need to engage," said Steve Hardwick, who crossed swords with Stewart for years when he was BAA's communications director. "In earlier years he was anti the development but not anti-BAA. Later I felt he had been pulled by the younger, more aggressive campaigners."
Lord Soley, a former Labour MP and now campaign director for Future Heathrow, an alliance of trade unions and industry groups backing the expansion plan, is less kind: "He is seriously misguided, profoundly wrong - but to be fair, he listens."
One industry insider said: "Off the record, he is a very determined, single-minded, uncompromising bastard. But I genuinely like him."
Hacan does not organise direct action but Stewart predicts plenty in the next few years. "The runway project is dangerous for government. They face concerted and continual direct action and not just from climate change activists. Over the autumn hundreds of west London residents have been having direct action training with Seeds for Change and Plane Stupid. The breaking of the promises after Terminal 5 made people more radical and angry. There is a sizeable number of residents now who have now been radicalised and who are preparing to break the law and who will take direct action. They have nothing to lose."
On Monday, around 1,000 people are expected to "rush" one of the terminals and the police are on standby for people breaking the perimeter wire. Stewart is no stranger to the picket lines but has never been arrested. He chaired Alarm UK, the umbrella group of hundreds of communities opposed to Tory road-building plans in the 90s, fought the M11 extension in Wanstead, north London, at times from a chestnut tree, and was in front of the bulldozers at Twyford Down. He was one of only three people injuncted not to go near Heathrow in 2007 when 3,000 activists camped at the airport. "There does come a time when I am John Stewart the man and not the chair of Hacan. I will be there and will be proud to be there."
Now he's fed up with planes and has moved away from west London to Leytonstone, in the east of the capital. "I have lived with planes so long now. I am probably obsessed with them dangerously. I hadn't taken one in years, but recently I was sent a ticket to go to Siena to talk to people opposing a runway. Within 10 minutes of landing the Evening Standard had phoned and was running a piece in its diary column."
Now that the gloves are off for Heathrow's runway, Stewart is optimistic, believing that the climate change debate and European law will ensure that it is never built. "Heathrow on its own will scupper any government targets to cut CO2 emissions," he says.
"Yes, I have enemies. Definitely the DfT. They have now broken off all contact with us. I hope they feel threatened because we are going to get in their way in a way that has not been seen before. Then I suspect we will see them [use] heavier tactics."