For most of us, the monthly electric bill is a fact of life. Though its share of the household budget rises and falls with consumption, electricity ranks with water, food and shelter as an essential expense. Meeting this demand in homes and businesses across Alabama requires production and distribution on an enormous scale. Because of the unusual relationship between a “captive” market and what is often a single producer, states regulate power companies differently from most other commercial operations. In theory, one part of that regulation is allowing consumers to see how their utility rates are set. This fact sheet examines regulation of Alabama’s largest utility company, with a focus on transparency in the rate-setting process.