Moves by net zero sceptics to exploit the acute pinch facing fuel poor households risk becoming a “drag anchor” on the UK’s decarbonisation drive, National Energy Action chief executive Adam Scorer has warned.

At a meeting about the energy crisis held by the Net Zero All Party Parliamentary Group, the fuel poverty charity’s boss raised concerns that opponents of the government’s 2050 decarbonisation goal are seizing on the problems of low-income customers in order to promote their agenda.

The Net Zero Scrutiny Group of mainly Conservative backbench MPs and peers has argued that green levies should be scrapped in order to reduce the burden on cash-strapped poorer customers.

He said: “We have a number of voices who are using the fuel poor as a proxy to draw back on the necessary steps to net zero. If we allow that to happen, the poor will be a drag anchor on moving towards net zero.”

But the energy efficiency of fuel poor households must be tackled in order to meet the government’s wider net zero goal, Scorer said: “There is no pathway to net zero that doesn’t travel through the homes of the poor so it’s a huge opportunity that has to be grasped.”

However, Scorer said the government’s energy strategy, which was published just over a fortnight ago, had included no measures to accelerate the reduction in demand required to improve the nation’s energy security.

“The acceleration is entirely absent when it comes to demand: it is not just absent, they have slammed on the brakes.”

He said the absence of demand reduction measures helped to fuel lingering “confusion” about whether the 12-page document was a response to the immediate crisis or a supply strategy.

Scorer added that the strategy was “especially incoherent” in the context of the current cost of living crisis.

Gillian Cooper, head of energy policy at Citizens Advice, told the same meeting that more targeted support must be made available for customers in October.

“This shouldn’t be a matter for debate anymore, it’s absolutely necessary.”

Rachel Fletcher, Octopus Energy director of regulation and economics, expressed scepticism about whether necessary grid upgrades will happen despite “tantalising teases” in the security strategy’s section on networks.

“I’m not betting any money on that delivering anything quickly enough,” she said, adding that market reform is “desperately” needed in order to optimise the system and give signals to incentivise renewable energy investment where spare capacity exists on the grid.