AUSTRALIA could source 85 per cent of its power from clean energy sources by 2050 according to modelling contained in the government's energy white paper.

But the transformation from coal dependency to a clean energy future would require more than $200 billion investment in new power plants, including $100 billion in renewable sources of powers and $50 billion to $60 billion in gas, it says. The paper also makes it clear that fossil fuels will continue to underpin Australia's energy security "for many years to come".

It says the striking advance of clean energy envisaged is "far from guaranteed" and that some of the technologies are not yet commercially available.

Releasing the paper on Thursday, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson will also demand NSW and Queensland follow Victoria's lead and deregulate electricity prices to stop soaring power bills.

He will concede that electricity price rises over recent years have hurt households and businesses and are "simply not sustainable".

And he will challenge the states to sign up to energy market reforms that tackle the biggest cause of price rises — on top of the carbon price which, he says, adds only "marginally to costs".

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday that the white paper was "three years too late" and should have been introduced when there were more state Labor governments.

"This paper has been promised and promised and promised and promised," he said.

Mr Abbott said he was happy to look at suggestions in the paper but would not support forced deregulation.

"I don't believe that it's right and proper for the federal government to try and coerce the states in this way," he said.

"If the government was serious about getting power prices down, it would scrap the carbon tax."

with Judith Ireland

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