State utility regulators are delaying Idaho Power's quest to lump people who install rooftop solar panels into a new class of energy providers.

Idaho Power had asked the commission for permission to create a new class of customer starting Jan. 1. Doing so would allow the company to discuss possible rate hikes.

However, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission announced Wednesday it will hold a hearing in March before rendering a decision on the utility company's request.

The request centers around a practice called "net metering," which mandates homeowners and small business owners who install solar panels be compensated for any surplus energy they feed back onto the grid.

Idaho Power officials say the current system wasn't designed for homeowners who installed their own solar panel and argue traditional power customers are shouldering the extra costs.