Multireference quantum chemical methods, such as the complete active space self-consistent field (CASSCF) method, have long been the state of the art for computing regions of potential energy surfaces (PESs) where complex, multiconfigurational wavefunctions are required, such as near conical intersections. Herein, we present a computationally efficient alternative to the widely used CASSCF method based on a complete active space configuration interaction (CASCI) expansion built from the state-averaged natural orbitals of configuration interaction singles calculations (CISNOs). This CISNO-CASCI approach is shown to predict vertical excitation energies of molecules with closed-shell ground states similar to those predicted by state averaged (SA)-CASSCF in many cases and to provide an excellent reference for a perturbative treatment of dynamic electron correlation. Absolute energies computed at the CISNO-CASCI level are found to be variationally superior, on average, to other CASCI methods. Unlike SA-CASSCF, CISNO-CASCI provides vertical excitation energies which are both size intensive and size consistent, thus suggesting that CISNO-CASCI would be preferable to SA-CASSCF for the study of systems with multiple excitable centers. The fact that SA-CASSCF and some other CASCI methods do not provide a size intensive/consistent description of excited states is attributed to changes in the orbitals that occur upon introduction of non-interacting subsystems. Finally, CISNO-CASCI is found to provide a suitable description of the PES surrounding a biradicaloid conical intersection in ethylene.
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